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Allegheny County air pollution committee backs new rules on soot

| Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 6:54 p.m.

Allegheny County's air pollution advisers on Tuesday approved a plan to bring the county in line with federal limits on soot by 2014.

The Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee voted 6-2 to recommend that the county pass the plan, assembled under federal mandate. Workers in the County Air Quality Program are projecting that the county will meet federal standards for the first time by 2014. Joe Osborne and Jeanne Clark voted against the plan.

“I'm hopeful because … the trend has been toward improvement and reduction in overall emissions,” Dan Bricmont, a Downtown lawyer and former mayor of Avalon who chairs the committee, said after the meeting. “I'm confident, knowing the kinds of (pollution) control we have in this county.”

The rules go to the Board of Health for approval at its May 1 meeting. The Environmental Protection Agency has final say, a decision county officials expect in May or June.

Some environmental groups have been critical of the plan, saying the county's numbers are optimistic and overly reliant on federal enforcement rules recently struck down in court. Osborne, the legal director with the Group Against Smog and Pollution in Garfield, warned the committee that without those rules some of their trends in pollution reduction could reverse.

“By having additional controls and contingency measures, it would just be assurance that if things don't work out as expected, we have a plan to address it immediately,” Osborne said afterward.

That isn't necessary, said Jayme Graham, the county's air quality manager. The county doesn't need insurance against the loss of some federal rules; it has other enforcement powers in place through other rules and permit agreements. There's also help from the market to burn natural gas instead of coal for electricity, she told the committee.

“We still think all the things that have happened in the past six to eight years will be sufficient,” Graham said after the meeting.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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