Fund the DEP

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I applaud your July 14 editorial "Pollution Control: Allegheny County Needs a Local Air Regulator." It was a pointed response to Murrysville state Rep. Eli Evankovich's proposed legislation. Mistakenly, he believes that Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection can monitor and regulate air pollution in Allegheny County and, in so doing, reduce costs to taxpayers and be more responsive to the citizens of surrounding counties.

I seriously question whether the DEP, as underfunded and tethered to Harrisburg as it is, would be as effective as the Allegheny County Health Department. State funding of the DEP is at historic lows, with five years in a row of budget cuts and funding almost 60 percent lower than it was under Gov. Ridge in 2000-2001, according to the advocacy organization Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. Personnel cuts continue to be the norm.

On the issue of costs, Mr. Evankovich states, "The taxpayers of Allegheny County pay twice for the same services." His statement is in error and, unfortunately, so is your editorial when you say that the air quality program is "...funded by county residents." Andrew McGill in his July 11 P-G article "County's Air Quality Oversight Authority Challenged" interviewed Ronald Voorhees, acting director of the health department. Mr. Voorhees stated that the county's air quality program is actually funded entirely by fees, fines and federal grants, using no local tax revenue.

What about the citizens in surrounding counties? Perhaps Mr. Evankovich should be worrying about how to make Pennsylvania's DEP more effective and protective of his constituents' health from such concerns as natural gas drilling.

Ben Avon



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