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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: August 5, 2019 03:28 PM
From: Representative Austin A. Davis
To: All House members
Subject: Increase Fines for Major Facilities Air Pollution Episodes and Municipal Notification Requirement
Each of us breathe over 3,000 gallons of air per day. We can go without food for weeks, water a couple of days but only a few minutes without proper air. Laws and regulations exist to make sure we have clean air to breathe and industry is monitored to ensure that the public is protected from excessive emissions. These emissions can burn eyes and noses, irritate throats and make breathing difficult. They can trigger asthma and are of particular concern for older and younger Pennsylvanians as well as others with respiratory issues.

Recent incidents at the Clairton Coke Works in my district and the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery complex in Philadelphia illustrate the urgency for a comprehensive solution to correct flaws in air monitoring and response plans for industrial sites surrounded by highly concentrated residential areas. My bill would mandate a commonsense warning system to ensure people’s safety. It would also put “some teeth” into preventing the pollution in the first place.

Fines would increase significantly for those facilities found to exceed established pollution thresholds. These penalties have not been changed for decades and for many of these billion-dollar operations are a drop in the bucket.

We want to be sure that offending companies feel the fine so that they will no longer be a cost of doing business. The larger fee will hopefully act as a deterrent to further pollution and encourage investment to avoid it in the future.

The legislation requires industry to notify affected communities when accidents occur that have the potential to impact the health of the public. All major facilities would be required to develop and maintain a municipal notification plan designed to give notice to the immediate and surrounding communities in the event of an accident causing air pollution.

Specifically, the plan would require notification as soon as possible and within 12 hours of the breakdown or accident, unless the risk is eliminated before notice is required. It would also establish the most expeditious way to deliver notice of the risk to the affected municipalities; communicate measures for community members to undertake in order to mitigate the risks of the air pollution release; and require yearly updates to the plan to ensure that municipal contact procedures are up to date.

The Department of Environmental Protection or local air pollution control agency with jurisdiction over the facility will also require revisions to a facility’s municipal notification plan.

Please be proactive and join me in this bill so we can avoid a large-scale disaster caused by sudden hazardous emissions from an industrial facility. Companies in violation should be properly penalized for threatening the health of Pennsylvanians.

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Introduced as HB1752