While Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald was happy the air toxics guidelines passed, he stated, "There was an amendment put in there that shouldn't be there, and will most likely be taken out at the next meeting. That was a mistake." I could not disagree more. As Donald Burke, who chaired the Air Toxics Review Committee, stated, "[The original guidelines] are scientifically sound and were achieved after reaching a consensus [with industry input]."
Science was invented and changes were made behind closed doors to these originally agreed upon guidelines. The most troubling change replaced the industry standard of measuring pollution at the applicant's property line with something they named a "public exposure boundary" defined as "the point of the nearest regularly occupied or likely to be regularly occupied (at least six hours per day for a minimum of 30 days per calendar year) structure beyond the applicant's property line.
Googling, I could find no other examples of "public exposure boundary" in any guidelines or scientific publications. In addition, the Air Toxics Review Committee examined numerous air quality policies and could find no other examples of such an imaginative and unfriendly standard for public health. All use property line. The invented standards that Mr. Fitzgerald seems to prefer are significantly weaker and fail to adequately protect the public health. Under the adopted guidelines, no permit from the past three years would have been denied.
Such loose standards create uncertain legal ramifications. Consider the impact on neighboring landowners' rights. A permit issued next to undeveloped land creates a moving target. Where is the nearest building today? Tomorrow? This uncertainty significantly impacts the landowner's ability to use their land for future development. The guidelines should stand as adopted.
The writer is a Ben Avon council member.