Environmental Groups Secure Deadlines from Allegheny County for Overdue Air Pollution Permits

Consent decree between groups and Allegheny County sets deadlines for Synthomer and Neville plant permits

The national advocacy groups Environmental Integrity Project and Food & Water Watch reached agreement with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) in a lawsuit over the agency’s failure to issue air quality permits for two major polluters.

The consent decree, filed on March 7, imposes a strict schedule for ACHD to take final action on these long-overdue permits, with an expected permit issuance date of early June 2024 for the Neville Chemical permit and late July 2024 for the Synthomer permit.

Last November, the Environmental Integrity Project filed a complaint on behalf of Food & Water Watch in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas over the agency’s failure to issue air quality permits for both facilities.

The Clean Air Act requires major stationary sources of air pollution to obtain federal operating permits – what are known as Title V permits. That process also provides the public with an opportunity to comment on the status of those permits. ACHD is the agency responsible for administering the Title V program in Allegheny County, but it has failed to issue permits pursuant to that program for these facilities in a timely manner.

Despite being a major source of local air pollution, the Synthomer plant (formerly Eastman Chemicals) in West Elizabeth Township has never been issued a Title V permit from ACHD. Though the company had applied for a permit in February 2022, ACHD did not take action by the 18-month deadline. The Title V permit for the Neville Chemical facility, located in Neville Township, expired over three years ago, and ACHD also failed to take timely action on the company’s renewal application.

The consent decree lays out a timeline for ACHD to issue the permits and includes public comment periods for both facilities. A 30-day public comment period for the Neville plant will end on March 12; by the end of the month, the same process will begin for the Synthomer plant.

“Today’s consent decree represents a step in the right direction towards getting the agency back on track and ensuring that members of the public are benefitting from the protections provided by final permits,” said Sanghyun Lee, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “EIP is glad to have reached an agreement for our client with ACHD that will ease the chronic backlog of issuing final Title V permits.”

“Allegheny County residents deserve a health department that protects us from polluting facilities. It’s unfortunate that we had to force the agency to do the bare minimum, but this is a big step in the right direction,” said Food & Water Watch Pennsylvania State Director Megan McDonough.

Media contact: Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project (443) 510-2574 or tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org