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Judge to decide if Clean Air Act can go on ballot

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 27 2013 05:05:20 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 27 2013 06:40:18 PM CDT

The battle over the legality of the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance finally had its day in court.

ALLENTOWN, PA. -

The battle over the legality of the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance finally had its day in court. A group called Allentown Residents for Clean Air is suing the Lehigh County Elections Board for keeping the initiative off the ballot.

"We're fighting to get that back to the voters," said Mike Ewall with the Energy Justice Network.

The group wants to monitor emissions from Delta Thermo Energy's planned incinerator going next to the city's wastewater treatment plant.

"The whole thing has to either fall or stand on its own," explained Lehigh County Solicitor John Ashcraft.

Representatives from the county, the clean air group and the plant were all in the courtroom Friday. The heart of the matter is if Allentown has the right to create this ordinance, or if it conflicts with existing state law.

"In that Air Pollution Control Act that the state has, there's a section that gives any local government the right to have air pollution laws that are stricter than state or federal law," shared Ewall.

Basically the plaintiffs are trying to create a local ordinance that puts additional monitoring on top of what the state requires. The Board of Elections argues the ordinance cannot be created because it's inconsistent with what's on the books.

"On abatement issues, public nuisance issues, criminal penalties and the enforcement of those and any other procedures that they set up in the ordinance," added Ashcraft.

After two hours of arguments, the Judge said she will issue a decision Monday, three days before the ballots are set to be printed.