Pittsburgh’s air is getting cleaner. But there’s still a ways to go

Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “No more excuses: Get vaccinated.”

Adam Cancryn and David Lim, “Biden administration likely to miss July 4 vaccine target as new Covid strain surges,” Politico, June 22, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/22/biden-july-4-vaccination-target-495485

Dan Diamond, “153 people resigned or were fired from a Texas hospital system after refusing to get vaccinated,” Washington Post, June 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/06/22/houston-methodist-loses-153-employees-vaccine-mandate/

Dhruv Khullar, “One half of America is protected. The other is approaching a perilous moment in the pandemic,” New Yorker, June 23, 2021, ttps://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/the-delta-variant-is-a-grave-danger-to-the-unvaccinated


Donald Trump

[W]hile the report eviscerates claims about election fraud, its authors also use the allegations to urge their legislative colleagues to change Michigan’s voting laws to make absentee voting harder and limit the availability of drop boxes for absentee ballots, as Republicans have done in other swing states as they try to limit voting.[7]

CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig said [of Rudy Giuliani’s law license] suspensions such as these are unusual.

“You’re a lawyer, your job is to zealously represent your client. A lot of times your client maybe has done wrong, but what you cannot do as a lawyer is just lie,” Honig said on CNN’s “At This Hour.” “This does not happen every day by any stretch. This is a very rare thing and a very extreme thing for the court to do.”[8]

Reid J. Epstein, “Michigan Republicans Debunk Voter Fraud Claims in Unsparing Report,” New York Times, June 23, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/us/politics/michigan-2020-election.html

Erica Orden, Veronica Stracqualursi, and Katelyn Polantz, “Rudy Giuliani suspended from practicing law in New York state,” CNN, June 24, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/24/politics/rudy-giuliani-suspended-law/index.html


Pittsburgh

Something that has perplexed me since moving to Pittsburgh from California is that areas I would expect to be desirable areas where rich people would live often are not. This includes many areas with river views and hilltops. About the one clear exception is Mount Washington, which overlooks the conjunction of the forks of the Ohio River (the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers) and downtown.

I’ve wondered if hilltops were where smoke drifted from the now mostly but not entirely gone steel industry. I’ve wondered about flood risk in low lying areas (and apparently this has been a problem). But the environmental injustice here is impossible for me to ignore.

In June, the Cheswick coal-fired power plant also announced it will shut down completely in September. Zachary Barber, a clean air advocate at statewide environmental group PennEnvironment, says pollution from the Clairton Coke Works and the Cheswick Power Plant have had an outsized role in Pittsburgh’s air pollution and the health problems they cause for residents.

“For years, some of the biggest polluters have been the Clairton Coke Works. By quantity, that’s the biggest. And the Cheswick Power Plant, which in our previous report, was one of the most toxic,” says Barber, referring to PennEnvironment’s Toxic Ten Report, which ranks Allegheny County’s worst polluters. “When we get to the point when Clairton closes three of their most polluting batteries, which is a third of their pollution, that is going to be a pretty substantial reduction in pollution.”[9]

It’s not just communities with disproportionately Black populations. The Cheswick power plant, actually in Springdale, the next town upstream, is along a stretch of the Allegheny River north and east of Oakmont, Aspinwall, and Fox Chapel, all quite well off communities, that is suddenly and jarringly working class. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion share a post in Springdale, with a gratuitous gun prominently displayed, for me, a sure sign of white supremacy trouble.[10]

Neville Island is on the Ohio River. It has bridge connections to Stowe Township (adjacent to McKees Rocks) and Coraopolis as well as on I-79. And while the Monongahela River Valley (“Mon Valley”) is a poster child for environmental injustice, where dirty, polluting industries cause and aggravate health problems in areas with lots of poor and working class people,[11] Neville Island, a poor area, might be at least as hazardous. But it’s hard to know: Not all of the pollution is being detected by official Allegheny County monitors and it’s also near better off areas like Ben Avon and even Avalon, which seems to account for some of this attention.[12]

Ryan Deto, “Two large air pollution sources will soon be offline. Will Allegheny County’s air quality future be as clean as it can be?” Pittsburgh City Paper, June 23, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/two-large-air-pollution-sources-will-soon-be-offline-will-allegheny-countys-air-quality-future-be-as-clean-as-it-can-be/Content?oid=19710475

Oliver Morrison and Jamie Wiggan, “A thousand little cuts: Locals say a fire on Neville Island shows the pollution didn’t stop after Shenango Coke Works closed,” Public Source, June 23, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/pittsburgh-allegheny-neville-air-pollution-metalico-accan-shenango/


Pittsburgh

Mark Byrnes, “What Pittsburgh Looked Like When It Decided It Had a Pollution Problem,” CityLab, June 5, 2012, https://www.citylab.com/design/2012/06/what-pittsburgh-looked-when-it-decided-it-had-pollution-problem/2185/


  1. [7]Reid J. Epstein, “Michigan Republicans Debunk Voter Fraud Claims in Unsparing Report,” New York Times, June 23, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/us/politics/michigan-2020-election.html
  2. [8]Erica Orden, Veronica Stracqualursi, and Katelyn Polantz, “Rudy Giuliani suspended from practicing law in New York state,” CNN, June 24, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/24/politics/rudy-giuliani-suspended-law/index.html
  3. [9]Ryan Deto, “Two large air pollution sources will soon be offline. Will Allegheny County’s air quality future be as clean as it can be?” Pittsburgh City Paper, June 23, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/two-large-air-pollution-sources-will-soon-be-offline-will-allegheny-countys-air-quality-future-be-as-clean-as-it-can-be/Content?oid=19710475
  4. [10]David Benfell, “Keeping the poor, poor, even when they serve their country,” Not Housebroken, May 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/27/keeping-the-poor-poor-even-when-they-serve-their-country/; David Benfell, “On patriotism,” Not Housebroken, June 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/27/on-patriotism/; David Benfell, “Eviction and race war,” Not Housebroken, November 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/01/eviction-and-race-war/; David Benfell, “Pittsburgh, race, and a threat to appropriated identity,” Not Housebroken, November 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/17/pittsburgh-race-and-a-threat-to-appropriated-identity/; David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/; David Benfell, “Hate, Pittsburgh Style,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/04/06/hate-pittsburgh-style/
  5. [11]Jessi Quinn Alperin, “Clairton, PA, wants to be clear: Residents demand accountability from U.S. Steel,” Environmental Health News, May 13, 2019,
    https://www.ehn.org/clairton-coke-works-air-pollution-2636784943.html; Ollie Gratzinger, “Allegheny County issues another fine to US Steel for air pollution violation,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 17, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/allegheny-county-issues-another-fine-to-us-steel-for-air-pollution-violation/Content?oid=16576925; KDKA, “Allegheny Co. Health Department Joins Federal Suit Against U.S. Steel,” June 18, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/06/18/allegheny-county-health-department-suit-against-us-steel/; KDKA, “‘It’s Making Clairton Sick’: Poor Air Quality Impacting Clairton, Liberty Areas,” December 23, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/12/23/air-quality-impacting-clairton-liberty-areas/; Hannah Lynn, “Report: Pittsburgh ranked 8th worst for air pollution among US cities,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 22, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/report-pittsburgh-ranked-8th-worst-for-air-pollution-among-us-cities/Content?oid=17179037; Kris Maher, “Pittsburgh Breathes Easier After Repairs at U.S. Steel Coke Plant,” Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pittsburgh-breathes-easier-after-repairs-at-u-s-steel-coke-plant-11558872000; Kris Maher, “U.S. Steel Suffers New Fire Knocking Out Pollution Controls in Plant Near Pittsburgh,” Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-steel-suffers-new-fire-knocking-out-pollution-controls-in-plant-near-pittsburgh-11560795102; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel facing a 2nd federal lawsuit tied to December fire at Clairton Plant,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 26, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-facing-a-2nd-federal-lawsuit-tied-to-december-fire-at-clairton-plant/; Jamie Martines, “Settlement over bad air in Clairton calls for U.S. Steel to cough up $2 million,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 11, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/settlement-over-bad-air-in-clairton-calls-for-u-s-steel-to-cough-up-2-million/; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel to hold info sessions about Clairton, Braddock plant upgrades,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-to-hold-info-sessions-about-clairton-braddock-plant-upgrades/; Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel, Allegheny County finalize Clairton Coke Works emissions settlement,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 10, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/u-s-steel-and-allegheny-county-finalize-clairton-coke-works-emissions-settlement/; Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air quality continues to decline, new report finds,” Environmental Health News, April 24, 2019, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburghs-air-quality-continues-to-decline-new-report-finds-2635280543.html; Kristina Marusic, “Pittsburgh’s air was unsafe to breathe for 3 months in 2018,” Environmental Health News, January 28, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/pittsburgh-air-pollution-unsafe-2644931105.html; Kristina Marusic, “Environmental injustice in Pittsburgh: Poor, minority neighborhoods see higher rates of deaths from air pollution,” Environmental Health News, June 12, 2020, https://www.ehn.org/environmental-injustice-pittsburgh-air-pollution-2646169635.html; Kristina Marusic, “U.S. Steel abandons clean tech plans in Pittsburgh region following damning health study,” Environmental Health News, May 6, 2021, https://www.ehn.org/us-steel-pittsburgh-pollution-asthma-2652882219/residents-at-risk-and-in-the-dark; Oliver Morrison, “Mon Valley air was the healthiest it’s ever been in 2020; region still receives an ‘F’ grade,” Public Source, April 21, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/2020-pittsburgh-air-pollution-allegheny-county-clairton-steel/; Oliver Morrison, “‘Today is a difficult day.’ U.S. Steel announces closure of several of Clairton’s ‘dirtiest’ coke oven batteries,” Public Source, April 30, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/mon-valley-clairton-us-steel-coke-works-pollution-f-grade-air-quality/; Andy Sheehan, “Air Quality In Mon Valley Once Again Hits Unhealthy Levels,” KDKA, February 24, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/02/24/mon-valley-air-quality-unhealthy-levels/; Teghan Simonton, “Health department: Air pollution in Mon Valley exceeded federal levels over Christmas,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 27, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/health-department-air-pollution-in-mon-valley-exceeded-federal-levels-over-christmas/; WTAE, “U.S. Steel, health department have deal to settle 2018 air pollution violations at Clairton Coke Works,” June 28, 2019, https://www.wtae.com/article/us-steel-reaches-agreement-with-health-department-to-resolve-enforcement-orders-at-clairton-coke-works/28221648; WTAE, “Allegheny Co. Health Department announces fines against U.S. Steel for violations at Clairton Coke Works,” May 28, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-co-health-department-announces-fines-against-us-steel-for-violations-at-clairton-coke-works/32702736
  6. [12]Oliver Morrison and Jamie Wiggan, “A thousand little cuts: Locals say a fire on Neville Island shows the pollution didn’t stop after Shenango Coke Works closed,” Public Source, June 23, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/pittsburgh-allegheny-neville-air-pollution-metalico-accan-shenango/

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