Local government improves the quality of life for its citizens in a number of areas – parks and recreation, street maintenance and repair, waste management and recycling, community development and public safety – to name a few. Often, issues related to air quality are overlooked at the local level because enforcement is perceived to be the responsibility of county or state officials. However, at the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), roughly half of the complaints received relate to problems addressable at the local level. Usually these complaints are about unnecessary idling of diesel vehicles or biomass burning in one form or another. In such situations, municipal officials are often caught off guard about the problems they are facing, or don’t understand how to enforce regulations. However, local officials are in a unique position to improve the quality of life in a community, as emissions from these two sources have their biggest impact in small areas—at a neighboring house, over a few blocks, or throughout a town nestled in a valley.
It is true that “air quality” often falls under the enforcement of county and state health agencies. But local officials, who are often most in touch with the community, can do much to regulate unnecessary idling and assure the correct use of Outdoor Wood-Fired Boilers (OWBs) in their communities. Two upcoming webinars hosted by LGA will introduce participants to the how.
The First Webinar, “What Local Governments Need to Know About Outdoor Burners & Wood Smoke Pollution,” (January 25th, 12:30 PM, free): GASP has found that most people don’t give a lot of thought to wood burning, since it often takes the form of a fun outdoor activity, like a campfire. But outdoor burning can take many other forms and ongoing exposure to wood smoke can result in harmful effects. Residents may observe an increase in a running nose, stinging eyes, and trouble breathing, and these impacts often result in complaints to local authorities. What is burned and how outdoor burning occurs is important because smoke from wood and other materials may contain a vast number of toxins which can cause or aggravate existing respiratory and other ailments. With the rise in popularity of outdoor burners, local officials are well advised to expand their understanding of these issues. This webinar will inform local leaders about Pennsylvania laws regulating outdoor burners and wood smoke and what local laws they can adopt.
The second webinar, “Complying With & Enforcing Idling Laws,” (February 15th, 12:30 PM, free): This webinar addresses a similar problem: that of the economic, environmental, and health impacts associated with unnecessary idling of diesel vehicles. Responding to citizen complaints and concerns about the toxicity of these emissions, PA recently passed regulations restricting idling in most instances. Higher rates of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other ailments are found among operators of diesel vehicles or those living near areas with diesel vehicle activity. Learn what the exceptions and exemptions to the idling regulations are, and why keeping a sharp eye on idling can be good for your community in a number of ways.
When citizens are concerned about outdoor wood burning or diesel idling in their neighborhoods, they don’t pick up the phone to call the US Environmental Protection Agency or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. They call their local police department, or their local elected officials, or the zoning officer or municipal manager. We invite municipal officials to participate in these webinars to learn how they can respond to such situations effectively.
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Group Against Smog and Pollution