The Delta Thermo Energy Deal in Allentown is No More, But We Must Stay Tuned In Case the Other Shoe, When It Drops, Is Dropped into Another Ill-Conceived Incinerator

The City of Allentown is pulling out of the contract with Delta Thermo Energy.
http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-delta-thermo-termination-contract-20140930-story.html

This news surely spells the death of the experimental trash and sewage sludge incinerator that threatens Allentown.

HOWEVER, the company’s air and waste permits are still out there.  The air permit could be sold to other companies who want to develop that site.  Their waste permit could be used by anyone here or elsewhere in the state, if not challenged.

We also have an ongoing lawsuit to get the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance on the ballot, so that voters can adopt a law protecting the city against incinerator pollution from any company in the future.  It’s also critical, since the case will affect whether local governments anywhere in the state can adopt their own clean air laws.

Allentown can breathe easy for now, but let’s not go to sleep.  This isn’t over yet. See Allentown Residents for Clean Air or www.stoptheburn.org for more.

This victory couldn’t have happened without massive organizing and legal support from me, Traci and others at Energy Justice Network. It cost us close to $20K and three years of work (and some of the legal work will still continue).

If you can help give back, your donations are much needed and appreciated, and will help ensure that this victory is final and that other communities also get the support they need.
http://stoptheburn.org/donate

Allentown Residents for Clean Air Renews Court Fight for Clean Air Ordinance

Allentown Residents for Clean Air

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
6/6/2014

CONTACT:
Rich Fegley 610-509-8996

Allentown Residents for Clean Air Renews Court Fight for Clean Air Ordinance 

ALLENTOWN – Members of Allentown Residents for Clean Air (ARCA) filed a motion in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas to bring a clean air ordinance to the Allentown voters.  Last year, ARCA members collected nearly 3,500 signatures, exceeding the 2,000 signature requirement for Allentown voters to put an initiative on the ballot.  The Allentown Clean Air Ordinance initiative would require any company building a new incinerator in the city to continuously monitor about 20 air pollutants, release the emissions data to a website real-time, and to cap emissions for four of those pollutants.

Only one company currently aims to build an incinerator in Allentown: Delta Thermo Energy A, LLC.  They hope to find adequate investors to start building their proposed facility soon, which would burn 150 tons per day of processed trash and sewage sludge.  Delta Thermo Energy was recently awarded air pollution and waste permits by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  The air permit requires only five pollutants to be monitored on a continuous basis, plus the darkness of the smoke and the global warming pollutant, CO2 — far short of what the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance would require.

Last October, the court refused to compel the county Board of Elections to put the ordinance on the ballot, siding with the county and Delta Thermo Energy’s claims that the ordinance is not legal because it requires approval from the state DEP.  That decision was not technically final, however, and could not be appealed for that reason.  The motion for summary judgment filed with the court seeks a final decision from the court.

ARCA members, including Rich Fegley, argue in a detailed 53-page brief that state law grants local governments the power to adopt their own stricter air pollution laws without needing DEP approval, and that such laws are needed in Allentown because the city is 14th worst in the nation for sooty-air and is the nation’s 11th worst asthma capital.

This motion introduces new arguments from a Pennsylvania Supreme Court case decided in late December, in which the state’s highest court struck down major parts of Act 13, a 2012 law that the court said went too far in supporting the oil and gas industry.  The law, designed to support hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas, overrode local governments’ rights to adopt any sort of ordinance to restrict gas industry development.  For the first time, the court found that the rights to clean air and pure water in the Pennsylvania constitution can be enforced to protect the rights of the people.  It also found that the Commonwealth (including local governments) has a duty to protect these rights.

“If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court can find that our constitutional rights to clean air and water make it illegal for the state to take actions that interfere with those rights, then surely the constitution backs up the clear language in our state law that gives Allentown the authority to adopt its own clean air ordinance. The highest court in the state has clarified that municipalities are obligated to protect the health and welfare of citizens, and that environmental rights are guarantees that have to be protected at every level of government.” says Breena Holland, political science professor at Lehigh University.

The motion also argues that Delta Thermo Energy and Lehigh County misrepresented election law to the county court.  These parties convinced the court last year that Boards of Election are empowered to keep an ordinance off of the ballot if they think it’s not legal.  However, ARCA members’ motion argues that these cases say the opposite.  “Pennsylvania’s law is clear on this,” says Diane Teti, one of the plaintiffs.  “Boards of Elections are empowered to make sure that signatures and notarizations are valid and sufficient, but that’s it.  There is no dispute that we met those requirements, and the Board of Elections is required to put it on the ballot.  Legality of ordinances is for the courts to decide.”

And decide they will.  The Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas has given Delta Thermo Energy and the Board of Elections until July 1st to respond, after which the court will make a final decision.

“This fight is not over,” says Fegley.  “No incinerator will be built in Allentown, and if we have to appeal this all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to bring our right to clean air to the Allentown voters, we will.”

###


Sources:

Motion for Summary Judgment Brief:
http://stoptheburn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014-06-01-ARCA-final-brief.pdf

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling on Act 13:
http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Supreme/out/J-127A-D-2012oajc.pdf

Asthma ranking: “Asthma Capitals 2013,” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.asthmacapitals.com ;http://www.aafa.org/pdfs/2013_AC_FinalPublicList1.pdf

Asthma and Our Urban Cores: Global Impact and Direct Local Action (vote for your lungs)

Like the doctor in this short and important story, I was also diagnosed with asthma in 1984. He was a Harvard med school student working in Haiti. I was a four-year old boy in Berks County making a late night emergency trip to the hospital in Allentown. If I’d lived in Haiti then, I might not have seen 5. The inequality that makes that statement true is even worse now. Please read this story. When you do, understand that our urban cores, and the 40 percent of kids in them with asthma, need preventative care just as much as kids in Haiti.

http://www.good.is/posts/the-story-of-the-miraculous-inhaler-and-why-inequality-is-everyone-s-problem/?utm_medium=tdg&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=ltitle&utm_content=What+a+%27Miracle+Cure%27+Asthma+Inhaler+Says+About+Our+Bizarrely+Unequal+World

In Allentown, this means, in part, fighting the Delto Thermo Energy incinerator rammed down our lungs.  There are two ways you can help.  If you’re voting in the May 21 Democrat primary, vote for candidates who oppose the incinerator.  These include all the challengers (Alfonso Todd, Kim Velez, David Melman, and Carmen Bell) as well as incumbent Ray O’Connell.   (Mr. O’Connell did vote for the water lease, something all four challengers oppose, as do I and many others).

It also means that come November, you should vote FOR the clean air ordinance.

Thousands of Lives Would Have Been Saved If Obama Had Backed Stronger Smog Standards

I’ve been saying  this for a long time.  But I’m glad to see an institution as reputable as Johns Hopkins come out with this study:

 Thousands of Lives Would Have Been Saved If Obama Had Backed Stronger Smog Standards

With thanks to Joe Calhoun for sharing the story. Turns out Obama’s EPA was right all along.  That’s not surprising.

When States Get it Right (11 States Force Federal Action on Air Pollution)

The President wanted to wait until after November.  11 states called him on it.  They won.

My love goes out to California, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

My Air Quality Op-Ed is Live at The Morning Call

I have a piece running in today’s Morning Call about the year in air quality and action for 2012.  Thank you, Morning Call!

Who’s Right on Smog and Clean Air Standards? Obama or His EPA?

In September, President Obama announced that his administration would not adopt the new ozone standard recommended by EPA after a two-year review of the 2008 Bush administration standard.

EPA head Lisa Jackson had been pushing hard for the updated standard to replace the 2008 model, which the American Lung Association says “failed to protect public health, failed to follow the scientific community’s recommendations, and was legally indefensible.”

Ground-level ozone is a primary component in the creation of smog.  As we note on the Air Quality facts page at AirQualityAction.org, people with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active can be affected when ozone levels are unhealthy. Numerous scientific studies have linked ground-level ozone exposure to a variety of problems, including:

  • Airway irritation, coughing, and pain when taking a deep breath
  • Wheezing and breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities
  • Inflammation, which is much like a sunburn on the skin
  • Aggravation of asthma and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis
  • Permanent lung damage with repeated exposures.

Healthy people also experience difficulty in breathing when exposed to ozone pollution. Because ozone pollution usually forms in hot weather, anyone who spends time outdoors in the summer may be affected.

As the ALA notes, “By choosing to ignore the recommendations of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the President is failing to follow the nation’s landmark air pollution law, the Clean Air Act, and therefore failing to protect public health, particularly those most at risk including children, older people, and people who suffer from chronic lung diseases. For these people, breathing smog-polluted air can lead to coughing and wheezing, restricted airways, hospitalization and even death. Even healthy young adults and people who exercise or work outdoors can suffer from high levels of ozone pollution.”

All Americans, especially those already most at-risk from smog pollution, deserve the kind of protection ALA and EPA have called for. The President’s position on this issue is predicated by the false notion that tougher standards will adversely impact job creation. Remind the President that the creation of greener, cleaner jobs was at one time a top priority for his administration, and that his decision to punt on better smog standards is misguided and puts millions of Americans at needless risk.