More Than 2,000 Signatures Have Been Submitted for Allentown Clean Air Ordinance Ballot Initiative


More Than 2,000 Signatures Have Been Submitted for Allentown Clean Air Ordinance Ballot Initiative

Allentown Pa. – On March 16th, Allentown residents delivered over 2,000 signatures successfully gathered by the filing deadline for a ballot initiative in an effort to place their drafted clean air ordinance on the Allentown ballot in November.

The Allentown Clean Air Ordinance, if passed by the voters in November, would require around the clock monitoring of emissions from new waste burning facilities, while capping the kinds of emissions that can cause cancer, asthma, and COPD. Under Pennsylvania’s Air Pollution Control Act, towns and municipalities are allowed to pass stricter air pollution laws than state regulations.

Allentown Residents for Clean Air and the petition drive were organized by Allentown residents with the help of Energy Justice Network in response to Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s trash and sewage sludge incinerator proposal. The facility has been contracted by the Mayor and City Council for 35 years, but is still embroiled in a legal dispute with the state over their permit, and may not yet have adequate funding to move forward. If built, Delta Thermo Energy, a New Jersey company, would burn 100 tons a day of city trash and 50 tons a day of sewage sludge. The incinerator would be Delta Thermo’s first and would be classified as an experimental facility due to a novel combination of three technologies that would allow the operator to skirt state regulations.

In addition, the 35-year contract would create a disincentive for the city to prioritize waste reduction efforts such as recycling and composting that would preclude the need for both landfill expansion and incineration. Allentown Residents’ goal is to pass strict monitoring requirements and an emissions cap on pollutants like carbon monoxide, acid gases, volatile organic compounds, toxic metals, and dioxins such that Delta Thermo and investors would no longer be attracted to Allentown.

“It’s just common sense to expect an experimental waste-burning operation to use modern equipment that would tell us what is really coming out of their smokestack, and for their emissions to be as clean as they claim,” said Mike Ewall of Energy Justice Network. “However, this company is fighting the state, not wanting to comply with the most minimal requirements set in their permit, and wants even lower standards. I have no doubt that if we pass a reasonable clean air law, irresponsible companies like Delta Thermo will chose not to build their polluting experiment in the city.”

“We’ve been talking to many parents of kids with asthma, and others who suffer from the air pollution we already have. Burning 150 tons of waste each day in the heart of the city can only make things worse,” said Rich Fegley. “Alternatives like recycling and composting create 10 times more jobs than burning or burying waste. We can do better. In fact, San Francisco just reached 80% diversion from landfills and incinerators – a direction Allentown should try, rather than pick the dirtiest and most expensive way to handle waste.”

If the city clerk verifies that the signatures are valid, the ballot initiative would be present on the November ballot, so that Allentown voters can vote on whether they city should adopt the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance.

Allentown Residents for Clean Air is a diverse grassroots community organization organized to stop the Delta Thermo Energy incinerator.

The Energy Justice Network is a Philadelphia-based national organization that supports communities threatened by polluting energy and waste technologies. Taking direction from a grassroots base and the Principles of Environmental Justice, EJN advocates a clean energy, zero-emission, zero-waste future for all. On their website, EJN proposes their own Energy Justice Platform.

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