The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Adam Beitman, Sierra Club, or 202-670-5585

Southeastern Pennsylvania Earns Failing Grades for Dangerous Air Pollution

Lung Association report highlights need for stronger state protections from smog pollution


Counties throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania received failing grades for air quality last year, according to figures released today by the American Lung Association. The findings highlight the need for strong clean air safeguards from the Brunner Island coal-fired power plant, which is the largest coal-fired power plant near Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, and Philadelphia.

In the American Lung Association's 2015 State of the Air report, which grades each county in the United States based on its levels of smog and soot pollution, thirteen counties earned a failing grade for smog pollution, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Philadelphia, and York Counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Dauphin, Berks, and Montgomery County each scored a D.

"Pennsylvania families deserve better than failing air quality grades. Today's report from the American Lung Association highlights the need for Pennsylvania to do more to protect its families from dangerous air pollution," said Tom Schuster, Senior Representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in Pennsylvania.

Two thirds of Pennsylvania residents live in areas that are already failing to meet the current smog standard, including more than 1.2 million seniors, 1.7 million children, and nearly 750,000 asthma sufferers in Pennsylvania whose health is put at risk from smog pollution. In addition, people of color in Pennsylvania suffer from even higher rates of asthma and asthma-related hospitalizations, and are more likely to live in areas with higher levels of smog pollution.

This news comes as Governor Tom Wolf's Administration is working to finalize a new standard aimed at limiting smog-causing NOx pollution from coal-fired power plants, the largest source of this type of pollution in the state. Unfortunately, the proposed rule would not require any pollution reductions from the Brunner Island coal-fired power plant outside Harrisburg, which is the only remaining large coal-fired power plant in the state that does not have modern pollution controls to limit dangerous smog-causing pollution.

"Today, smog-causing pollution from the Brunner Island coal-fired power plant pours out of its smokestacks unabated, endangering the health of families throughout our region and directly contributing to today's failing air quality grades. The people of southeastern Pennsylvania have a right to breathe healthy air like everyone else," said retired military veteran and Sierra Club Veterans for Clean Air volunteer Sgt. Gerald Brown. "While we applaud the Governor's proposal to reduce pollution from other coal plants in the state, Brunner Island should not be given a free pass to pollute in our region and endanger the health of our families. It's time for Governor Wolf to close this dirty coal loophole and put our region on a path towards cleaner air, clearer skies, and healthier families."

Smog (also known as ground-level ozone) is pumped out of vehicle tailpipes and dirty power plants, and doctors compare inhaling smog to getting a sunburn on your lungs. According to the American Lung Association, breathing in smog pollution often results in immediate breathing trouble and long-term exposure is linked to chronic respiratory and lung diseases like asthma, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death.

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