City of Allentown terminates contract with Delta Thermo

The City of Allentown is pulling out of the contract with Delta Thermo Energy.

This news surely spells the death of the experimental trash and sewage sludge incinerator that threatens Allentown.

HOWEVER, the company’s air and waste permits are still out there. The air permit could be sold to other companies who want to develop that site. Their waste permit could be used by anyone here or elsewhere in the state, if not challenged.

We also have an ongoing lawsuit to get the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance on the ballot, so that voters can adopt a law protecting the city against incinerator pollution from any company in the future. This is also critical, since the case will affect whether local governments anywhere in the state can adopt their own clean air laws.

Allentown can breathe easy for now, but let’s not go to sleep. This isn’t over yet.

If you can help give back, your donations are much needed and appreciated, and will help ensure that this victory is final and that other communities also get the support they need.

Delta Thermo Energy waste-to-energy plant gets necessary state permits

Online Media Coverage

Lehigh County Judge’s Opinion Letter

Conclusion quoted from the end of the Judge’s opinion letter:

As such, this court agrees with the conclusion of the Board. Timothy A. Benyo, Chief Clerk of the Election Board provided an explanation of the Boards’ August decision. He wrote that the Board found that the “City of Allentown Clean Air Ordinance, as proposed, does not properly recognize and account for the Department of Environmental Protection’s mandated approval role.” The proposed ordinance establishes an air pollution control program that is not authorized pursuant to APCA, 35 P.S. 4012(b) in that the City of Allentown is not a first or second class county. Furthermore, the proposed ordinance does not provide for or acknowledge the required application and approval of the Department in that the proposed ordinance is effective immediately. Therefore, the decision of the Board is affirmed and the writ of mandamus is denied. – Michele A. Varricchio, J.

ARCA appeals to Lehigh County commissioners

Here is the latest news on our Clean Air Ordinance. The Lehigh County Commissioners are looking into the appeal process for ARCA to appeal the Lehigh County Elections Board’s rejection of our ordinance. Stay tuned.

quote From WFMZ-69

Thwarted clean air law advocates appeal to Lehigh County commissioners

“This is a real crisis of democracy,” said county resident Al Wurth, a political science professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. “The cancellation of an election is not something I thought I would read about in this country, much less my home county.

“I’m very concerned as a citizen of Lehigh County that the county is usurping Allentown’s sovereignty.”

“I share your concerns,” said Commissioner Michael Schware, who resides in Allentown. The process is deeply flawed, said Commissioner Vic Mazziotti. Wurth called on county commissioners to tell the election board to reconsider its decision and let city voters decide whether the air pollution ordinance should become law. But Commissioner Scott Ott, who chaired the meeting, said the commissioners do not have the power to overrule the election board. Ott added: “Do not interpret our desire to follow the law with a lack of sympathy for your cause.” Commissioners have asked the county’s lawyers to look into whether election board decisions can be appealed. They also hope to get a clear explanation from the election board about why it rejected the ballot initiative.

Read more from

DEP Joins in the City’s Scare Tactics about Ordinance Legality

At the city’s request, the Department of Environmental Protection has put together a letter dated today (6/19), the day of the city council meeting where city council gets to vote on the ordinance.  The letter was actually released earlier, as the city had it on 6/18, just in time to email to local reporters so they could write articles on this day of the vote, claiming that the ordinance is illegal.  The ordinance is NOT preempted by state law, as DEP claims.  Mike Ewall, Esq. of Energy Justice Network, author of the Allentown Clean Air Ordinancedebunks the DEP’s letter here.

See today’s news articles on this herehere, and here.

Clean Air Ordinance will be on the November ballot…

…if Allentown City Council doesn’t vote for it first.

The Home Rule Charter allows Council 60 days to pass the ordinance themselves.  Today – May 21st – is Day 29; they have until June 21st.  The Ordinance was introduced at the May 15th Council meeting, and will be discussed (and open to public comments) at a Committee of the Whole meeting.  Stay tuned for that date!

City Clerk says that Clean Air Ordinance got enough signatures!

So simple, yet so satisfying:

“The City Clerk’s Office has reviewed your petitions and found them to be sufficient.”

Meaning that more than 2,000 of the 3,500 signatures that we collected turned out to be from registered Allentown voters. *whew*

This means that City Council has 60 days to adopt the Clean Air Ordinance themselves. If they vote against it or fail to consider it for 60 days, the Ordinance can appear on the ballot in November and the citizens of Allentown can adopt it.

To everyone who petitioned: Great job! You’re making democracy possible.

Special thanks to Mike Hanlon, Tawanna Whitehead, and everyone who helped the City Clerk’s office in the painstaking task of verifying the signers.

Final 10-day Clean Air signature sprint starts TOMORROW!

URGENT: The final 10-day Clean Air signature sprint starts TOMORROW! The city just confirmed that 1,376 of the 2,100 signatures we turned in are valid.

We need to collect 1,000 more to securely have 2,000 good signatures. That’s 100 signatures a day from Saturday 4/6 to Monday 4/15.

We have people committing to 50 or 100 signatures, with commitments totaling 350 signatures so far. Can you commit to 50? 20? 100? 100 is just ten a day… 🙂

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.