Prove your humanity

Money from the Inflation Reduction Act will help pay for over $4 million in new air monitoring around Pennsylvania. 

The money is part of a $53 million package of grants the US Environmental Protection Agency is awarding for air monitoring in environmental justice areas around the country. The agency said it focused on communities that are “underserved, historically marginalized, and overburdened by pollution.”

The grants will pay for 11 projects around the state, totaling $4.27 million. Monitors will be set up around industrial sources and transportation corridors in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Allentown. They will also pay for air monitoring near shale gas development in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

“Funding for these projects will finally give communities, some who for years have been overburdened by polluted air and other environmental insults, the data and information needed to better understand their local air quality and have a voice for real change,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz, in a statement. “This air monitoring work will also be useful as communities, and local leaders work to revitalize neighborhoods and grow their local economy.”

Matthew Mehalik, executive director of the Breathe Project, one of the nonprofits that received a grant for monitoring says his group will help set up monitors to monitor particle pollution, ozone, hazardous air pollutants, and volatile organic compounds near the Shell ethane cracker in Beaver County

“The money is geared to providing capacity in communities so that they can get monitors to understand what’s happening to their air quality and then be able to be part of a community dialog around environmental justice to hold polluters accountable,” Mehalik said. “We actually anticipate a lot of local residents installing monitors in their towns, in their communities, maybe in their backyards or porches.”

Mehalik said part of the grant will go toward creating an asthma registry with the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. 

Money for the projects come from $30 million in the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August, and $20 million from the American Rescue Plan, passed in 2021. 

Some of the projects include:

-A total of $925,000 will go to FracTracker, for air monitoring projects near shale gas sites in the Upper Ohio River valley in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and “to better assess emissions from the increased shale gas industrial buildout and use that data to educate local community members, elected officials and regulators on the need for a cumulative impact analysis requirement as part of all permitting procedures.”

-$499,000 for the Group Against Smog and Pollution to “expand community-owned air monitoring networks” in the Monongahela River valley near Pittsburgh

-$392,000 for the city of Philadelphia, to monitor air quality in environmental justice sites near major emitters

-$377,000 to monitor air quality for environmental justice communities along the waterfront in Delaware County, Pa.

-$366,000 will go to ProtectPT for air monitoring in environmental justice communities in Southwest Pa.

-$500,00 for a group, including Lehigh University, to monitor air pollution in Allentown. 

-Near Philadelphia, Community Housing and Empowerment Connections Inc. received $357,852 for monitors in New Castle County, Delaware. 

A full list of projects can be found here.

(The Allegheny Front receives funding from the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, whose fiduciary manager is the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, one of the organizations receiving funding.)