GASP and Patagonia use mural to urge action on curbing air pollution

GASP and Patagonia use mural to urge action on curbing air pollution
click to enlarge GASP mural at the Shadyside Patagonia location. - AMANDA GILLOOLY/GASP

Amanda Gillooly/GASP

GASP mural at the Shadyside Patagonia location.

The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) and Patagonia are taking advantage of the holiday season foot traffic to raise awareness of air pollution in the region.

GASP partnered with the socially conscious, California-based outdoor clothing company to help obtain signatures for a petition encouraging the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) to curb industrial emissions in and around Pittsburgh. To do this, the Patagonia storefront in Shadyside now has a mural that reads, “Tired of dirty air? Help GASP Clean it. Sign the petition.”

The GASP website says the mural was designed by Riley Mate and painted by Pittsburgh artist Jeremy Murray.

The mural has appeared weeks after GASP delivered a previous petition to ACHD during a press conference held at the Pittsburgh City-County Building. The event, which took place on Nov. 9, addressed GASP’s concerns that ACHD was not cracking down on local facilities for exceeding regulations on hydrogen sulfide emissions (H2S).

GASP says those emissions are believed to cause health problems and putrid, sulfurous smells in areas near United States Steel Corp. facilities like Clairton Coke Works, and the Edgar Thomson and Irvin facilities.

While ACHD has cited United States Steel Corp. numerous times for violating H2S and sulfur dioxide emission regulations, GASP believes little progress has been made. In comments submitted in February 2019 for a hearing on an explosion at Clairton Coke Works, GASP executive director Rachel Filippini wrote that, while the ACHD been doing a better job informing the public about “poor air dispersion days,” the department and others needed to do more to ensure that facilities were complying with emission regulations.

“We believe that ACHD must do a better job of holding U.S. Steel accountable, but so too must our local and state leaders,” Filippini says.

The petition points to a continued fight by local environmental advocates and community leaders to address the notoriously poor, unhealthy air quality that has plagued Pittsburgh over the years. In June 2019, Pittsburgh City Paper reported that a study from the American Air Association ranked Pittsburgh among the top 10 worst U.S. cities for air quality. Even more concerning, the report also claimed the Pittsburgh region had the fourth most air-pollution related deaths of any metro area in the country.

The bulk of these emissions have been connected to industry in the region. During a press conference in July 2019, fellow environmental group, PennEnvironment, noted that 70 percent of Allegheny County’s air pollution comes from 10 large facilities.

The partnership with Patagonia also demonstrates the company's commitment to addressing environmental issues, which has become a key part of its identity. Starting on Black Friday this year, through Dec. 31, 2019, Patagonia agreed to match any donations made to environmental nonprofits through its Patagonia Action Works initiative.

In a press release, Filippini thanked Patagonia for helping to “get the word out about an issue that impacts so many people in our city: Poor air quality.”

She added, “H2S emissions do more than cause a sickening odor. They make people sick and otherwise affect people’s quality of life. At a time when Pittsburgh has been named one of the most livable cities in the United States, people shouldn’t have to keep their windows closed on a nice evening or forego jogging or working in their garden because of the industrial stench.”