Protecting Our Air

Pennsylvania has the third worst air quality in the United States. Forty years after passage of the Clean Air Act, problems exist because industries continue to dump toxics into the air. Government regulators refuse to make polluters clean up their acts, often granting permit extensions that allow polluters to operate in violation of the law, harming the people that breathe dirty air.

Since 1970, some 35 local air quality studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals linking air pollution in Southwest Pennsylvania to increased asthma, heart disease, cancer, and neurological and reproductive problems. 

The burning of coal triggers asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments. It also releases toxic compounds like mercury, which, when ingested by pregnant women or children, can cause neurological disorders or inhibit proper brain development in the young. Methane leakage wipes out the climate benefits of switching from coal to natural gas, and a recent study notes that fracking operations have triggered increased asthma attacks in people who live near wells.


PennFuture works to reduce and eliminate Pennsylvania’s major sources of air pollution through stronger permitting, regulations and enforcement. 

  • We investigate whether major industrial plants are discharging toxic pollutants into the air at levels that violate the law, and bring legal action to make the facilities comply with their air quality permits; 
  • We work at the state and national level to compel government agencies to adopt aggressive standards to remove toxic mercury and other pollutants from the air; 
  • We bring lawsuits on behalf of people affected by air pollution, when the responsible government agency fails to enforce state and federal air pollution laws; 
  • We support strong action at the state and federal level to regulate methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  As the second largest producer of natural gas – a leading source of methane emissions – Pennsylvania has an obligation to its citizens to have the best-in-class protections against methane leakage from wells, compressor stations, and pipelines. 

Supporting Information

State of the Air
The American Lung Association’s report on the state of air quality across the country, including Pennsylvania;  Read More >

6700 Air Violations in 29 Months
​After years of breaking the law, PennFuture filed suit against one of the biggest polluters in Pennsylvania: U.S. Steel ’s Clairton Coke Works  Read More >

PennFuture launched the Toxic Neighbor Campaign in October 2017 to hold elected officials and big polluters accountable for air quality violations and for support of a petrochemical plant being built in Beaver County. Read More >


Learn More

Check out PennFuture’s mini documentaries on excessive air pollution of U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works: Clean Up Clairton