Public Service

 

During my five years on Ben Avon Council, it was my pleasure to improve public safety and to create a cleaner environment.  I still enjoy interacting with county, state, and federal employees and officials to resolve local concerns.  I am also a co-founder of ACCAN (Allegheny County Clean Air Now).  We worked closely with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) and the EPA to pressure DTE Energy’s Shenango Coke Works to clean the plant or to close. Shenango Coke Works was a major source of benzene, sulfur dioxide, PM2.5 and other pollutants in the region and has stopped operations.  More information about these organizations is below.

swearing-in

 

Ben Avon Council

I was appointed to council in January 2011, elected to a full term in 2012 and served until Janaury 2016.  During my time on council I was able to make a significant impact on the community.it was my pleasure to improve public safety, and create a cleaner environment.  I still enjoy interacting with county, state, and federal employees and officials to resolve local concerns.  I am also a co-founder of ACCAN (Allegheny County Clean Air Now).

I served as the Public Safety chair and Ben Avon Council’s representative to the Quaker Valley Council of Governments.

I worked with the Ben Avon and Emsworth volunteer fire departments to setup a regional fire commission in which all communities involved have a fair and equal voice.  The goal was to lead to better fire protection for all.  We were able to achieve better cooperation and communication among the fire companies.

In 2011, I took a leading role in proposed Marcellus Shale development in Avonworth Park and in the community.  I spoke at the Park Board meeting and then I worked with our fellow councils in Ben Avon Heights and Emsworth to overturn a poorly written lease that was signed without proper public comment and debate.  As a result, Marcellus Shale drilling will not be coming to Avonworth Park in the near term.

Working together with Ben Avon Mayor Bob Jones and Ohio Township Police Chief Micklos, we instituted an emergency message notification system (OneCall) in the event of an emergency.

Numerous complaints were lodged about noxious smells and smoke emanating from a wood fired boiler; however, the county was reluctant to act.  This smoke is at times was vast and was coming into the nearby houses and irritating the residents eyes and lungs. I was able to work with the PA Department of Environmental Protection to encourage Allegheny County Health Department to enforce the state’s regulation and have the local wood fired boiler removed.

Shenango Coke Works was a major source of benzene, sulfur dioxide, PM2.5 and other pollutants in the region.  To address this, I served as a member of the Neville Island Good Neighbors Committee.   We sat down with DTE Energy representatives and Allegheny County Health Department officials on a monthly basis for two years.  Our goal was to encourage Allegheny County Health Department to bring the DTE Shenango Coke Works plant into compliance.   However, that was not to be.  What was clear was that the problems at the plant were deeper than we had imagined and DTE Energy consider the small fines a cost of doing business.  We decided that in 2014 that these meetings were no longer effective, and we reformed Allegheny County Clean Air Now (ACCAN) of which I was a founding member.

In the fall of 2015, I was able to work with the four boroughs in the region (Emsworth, Ben Avon, Avalon, and Bellevue) to all pass resolutions calling for the enforcement of all environmental laws for the plants on Neville Island.  This  resolution passed in all the boroughs, passing unanimously in three out of the four.

 

Allegheny County Clean Air Now (ACCAN)

As a co-founder of ACCAN, I was instrumental in bringing public pressure to county, state, and federal officials to bring into compliance or close DTE Energy’s Shenango Coke Works located in the river valley on Neville Island.   I attended numerous meetings with the Allegheny County Health Department, DTE Energy management, wrote letters to the editor, appeared on WESA, and was often quoted in the press.  We held several community meetings.  We were able to bring the EPA to the community in November 2015 where Acting Director for the Region III Air Protection Division, Dave Arnold, called what he saw “totally unacceptable.”  This helped lead to DTE Energy’s decision to announce their decision to close the plant in December 2015.

The success of the campaign was document in the following article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/illah-Nourbakhsh/a-community-advocacy-succ_b_8859210.html