Air quality in the Philadelphia region is getting worse and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is legally required to submit a plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce asthma-causing ground-level-ozone (smog) pollution across the entire 5-county Philadelphia region, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Unfortunately, the plan is not proposing any direct actions to reduce air pollution in the region and a September 6th public hearing is scheduled at 1 PM in Norristown, PA. This makes it nearly impossible for the Philadelphia residents most impacted by pollution to attend. Since this is a regional problem public hearings should be held throughout the region including a public hearing in Philadelphia in disadvantaged communities.
Impacted residents should demand that a public hearing be held in the evening in Philadelphia so that those most affected by the region’s air pollution can express their concerns. Philadelphia not only has the largest population of any of the 5 counties in Southeast Pennsylvania, it additionally has the most significant smog pollution, registering more “orange” and “red” ozone action days where it is dangerous for many residents to breathe than any other county in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Philadelphia’s existing high asthma rates mean that city residents are more vulnerable to the effects of poor quality. Philadelphians deserve a chance to express their concerns about air quality that impacts their health and welfare.
After being designated as being in “marginal” nonattainment of federal health standard ozone standards in 2018, the Philadelphia region was reclassified as being in “moderate” nonattainment in 2022 because of the area’s increasingly poor air quality. This reclassification means that the region has already missed the January 1, 2023 deadline to comply with the EPA’s 2015 air quality standards for ground-level-ozone pollution.
Because of transportation’s significant impact on the region’s air pollution and the fact that the 5-county air quality region is also served by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) while including walkable communities and the regional Circuit Trails network, there is a unique opportunity to expand public transportation, bicycling, and walking infrastructure to benefit area residents and reduce air pollution from transportation, the largest source of smog-causing nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the region.
Click here to demand a public hearing in Philadelphia where residents can advocate for improved air quality.
Joseph Otis Minott, Esq.
Executive Director and Chief Counsel