Dirty is as dirty does: The ALA strikes again

Dirty is as dirty does: The ALA strikes again

Greater Pittsburgh can’t win for losing with the American Lung Association (ALA). But considering the recidivist scientific paucity in its latest “State of the Air” report, nobody should really care.

The latest report, the association’s 22nd, is dated for 2021 but covers the years 2017 through 2019. In a nutshell it can be summed up in this one-paragraph narrative from the Post-Gazette’s report:

“Kevin Stewart, ALA director of environmental health, acknowledged the Pittsburgh region’s improved pollution levels and rankings” – it’s ninth-worst in the nation in the latest report – “but said area air isn’t good enough, even though the most recent monitoring data from 2020 shows the region meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ambient air quality standards.”

Which, by the way, have become more and more stringent over the years.

Which should be the end of the story.

But it isn’t. Because, despite Greater Pittsburgh’s air quality attainment, the ALA continues to pimp unscientific methods to smear an entire metropolitan region as something approaching being unfit for human habitation.

Thankfully, however, as the ALA grandstanding continues year after year, more and more groups are refusing to be the object of the ecocratic smear machine.

To wit – and knowing what was coming — the business, industry and labor association known as Pittsburgh Works Together issued a “prebuttal” to the ALA methodology — primarily the use of one air-quality monitor to label a vast region as a threat to the public health.

And as the P-G further reminds:

“The Allegheny County Health Department, which regulates air pollution in the county and has also been critical of the ALA’s region-wide report card, announced in January that 2020 emissions were much reduced, and the county, for the first time, would attain federal air quality standards for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone and both fine and coarse airborne particles — or soot — at all eight of its monitors.”

The nub of the unscientific ALA rub is that it consistently bases its region-wide bad marks on dated data and relies solely on the Liberty Borough air monitor, which is heavily influenced by emissions from the Clairton Coke Works, a department official reminded the P-G.

Nonetheless, the ALA’s Stewart is undeterred. He tells the P-G:

“Although the Pittsburgh area is currently designated by EPA as ‘in attainment’ of the ozone standard, it is important to recognize that this is a legal determination, but not equivalent to a finding that the air is healthy to breathe every day everywhere.”

The ALA, Stewart says, evaluates the same data as does the EPA but “does not use the same methodology in its report to determine grades as the EPA does to determine attainment.”

Never mind that its “methodology,” if it can be called that, is akin to taking a pollution reading at one location, then traveling, say, 50 or so miles away and declaring, “Well, it was dirty there so it must be dirty here.”

Dirty is as dirty does. And dirty deeds done on the intellectual cheap. And, yes, in case there’s any doubt, we mean that as a pejorative.

It’s long past time to stop taking the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” reports as any kind of scholarly assessment. They are nothing more than political manifestos of the envirocratic left.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).