MEDIA RELEASE: State Office of Open Records orders PA Department of Corrections to release prisoner and staff health record at SCI Fayette

Legal victory for journalists’ investigation into prison surrounded by toxic coal ash dump

December 16, 2014 – The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records has ordered the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to produce documents pertaining to prisoner health at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Fayette to two journalists. The records were sought via Right-to-Know requests filed after the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) and the Human Rights Coalition (HRC) issued a report detailing a year-long investigation into the health impacts of exposure to coal waste at SCI Fayette, which is surrounded by 40 million tons of waste, two coal slurry ponds, and millions of cubic yards of coal combustion waste. Report at this link: No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institution Fayette.

Following the release of the ALC/HRC report, the DOC announced that Secretary John Wetzel had ordered the DOC to cooperate with the state Department of Health in investigating prisoner health at SCI Fayette.

On December 1, 2014, the Office of Open Records granted an appeal [Herald Standard v. PADOC] by Christine Haines and the Herald Standard newspaper, ordering the PADOC to produce “documentation of illnesses contracted by inmates and/or staff members at SCI-Fayette.” Although the PADOC cited 8 grounds for concealing the information, the OOR decision found that they failed to establish that any of them applied to the records sought. The DOC’s argument that the records were exempt from disclosure due to their being part of an ongoing, non-criminal investigation was rejected by the decision, which held that a “one-time inquiry” by an agency is not part of that agency’s official duties.

On December 8, 2014, the OOR granted in part and denied in part an appeal by Don Hopey and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [Pgh Post Gazette v. PADOC]. The DOC was ordered to produce records and communications pertaining to the coal waste and coal ash site, and it potential or actual impact on air, water, and land pollution, as well as its link to prisoner or staff health. The decision exempted the DOC from producing records pertaining to staff health and environmental assessments completed prior to the construction of SCI Fayette due to the DOC alleging that it was not in possession of any such records.

The DOC has 30 days to comply with each decision or to file appeals in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court as well.

Given the DOC’s representations to the OOR, it is questionable how thorough or probing these records will be when released. In the Post-Gazette decision, the reasons and scope of the DOC’s alleged investigation appear to be based on a misstatement of the findings of the ALC/HRC report:

[DOC Bureau of Health Care Director Christoper] Oppman states the Human Rights Coalition alleged that there is an increased incidence of cancer deaths among SCI-Fayette inmates, especially lung cancer, and that these deaths are based on the proximity of SCI-Fayette to the Canestrale Contracting Co. coal waste and coal ash landfill. Director Oppman further states that based on these allegations, the Department conducted an investigation to determine whether there was a higher incidence of inmate cancer deaths at SCI-Fayette than at other State Correctional Institutions. Director Oppman goes on to state that the results of this investigation were provided to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (“Department of Health”) for its own investigation.

Contrary to Director Oppman’s statement, however, the report detailed a range of health problems linked to exposure to toxic coal waste beyond cases of cancer, and made no finding that lung cancer deaths were “especially” increased:

Over the past year, more and more prisoners have reported declining health, revealing a pattern of symptomatic clusters consistent with exposure to toxic coal waste: respiratory, throat and sinus conditions; skin irritation and rashes; gastrointestinal tract problems; pre-cancerous growths and cancer; thyroid disorders; other symptoms such as eye irritation, blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, hair loss, weight loss, fatigue, and loss of mental focus and concentration. (No Escape, p. 1)

The report also carefully acknowledged the preliminary nature of its findings, emphasizing the need for further investigation:

Our investigation leads us to believe that the declining health of prisoners at SCI Fayette is indeed caused by the toxic environment surrounding the prison; however, the inherent limitations of the survey do not establish this belief at an empirical level. A substantial mobilization of resources for continued investigation will be required to confirm the relationship between prisoner health and pollution from coal refuse and ash. (No Escape, 2)

. . .

As previously mentioned, the inherent limitations of the survey make it impossible to empirically show that prisoners at SCI-Fayette are getting sick at an unusually high rate or that these illnesses are caused by pollution from the dump. (No Escape, 20)

In response to Oppman’s characterization of the report’s findings, ALC staff attorney, Dustin McDaniel, stated:

“This blatant mischaracterization of our findings calls into question the integrity and purpose of any inquiry by the DOC into prisoner health. Seeking to discredit a report by disproving a claim that was never made, and ignoring the actual claims appears designed to cover-up rather than uncover the extent and cause of the alarming patterns of health problems our investigation found.”

The Abolitionist Law Center and the Human Rights Coalition are continuing to investigate health problems at SCI Fayette. Since the September publication of No Escape, we have received substantial reports from prisoners and their family members that further corroborate the patterns identified in the report.

Action Alert – Demand transfer and medical treatment for prisoner locked up next to toxic coal ash dump

Nicholas Morrissey and his daughter before his illness
Nicholas Morrissey and his daughter before his illness

Nicholas Morrissey #HL6873 is a prisoner at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Fayette who is suffering from debilitating neurological problems for which he has been refused evaluation and treatment by prison medical staff.  SCI Fayette is located next to a massive coal ash dump in Southwestern PA, as documented in the recent report No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institute Fayette

Nick has been locked up at SCI Fayette since 2008.  Last year, he began to experience a number of debilitating health problems.  He writes, “One day I woke up and it was difficult for me to walk and see… I started getting dizzy and I couldn’t keep my balance and I started getting a numbing feeling in the left side of my body.” He quickly developed more symptoms:  tingling sensations and muscle spasm, loss of mechanical function in his arms and legs, memory loss, hair falling out, and extreme weight loss.

Take action today: Call and request that the PA Department of Corrections:

1) Transfer Nicholas Morrissey from SCI Fayette due to the risk that his health problems are being caused or made worse by the coal waste dump; and

2) Provide Nick with immediate diagnostic care by a specialist outside the prison, including an MRI.

Call:

SCI Fayette Superintendent Brian Coleman: 724-364-2200

PADOC Secretary John Wetzel: 717-728-4109

Background information:

“My life has completely changed in the last year.  I went from an athletic and healthy person, to a frail sickly man who can barely walk.” -Nicholas Morrissey

Early this year, after a series of blood tests, Nick was diagnosed with and began being treated for hyperthyroidism.  With treatment, Nick’s thyroid levels returned to normal, but most of his symptoms persisted or worsened.  The cognitive problems, muscle spasms, and temporary loss of function in his arms, legs and face, became more severe, leaving him unable to walk or get out of bed on many days.

Despite the persistence of these debilitating symptoms the prison’s medical department has refused to perform further evaluation or take him to an outside specialist for diagnostic care.  He has been told by medical staff that his symptoms are in his “imagination” and that he needs to “man up.”  He writes, “When I told the doctor that it was difficult for me to walk and that I couldn’t control my body anymore, I was kicked out of his office and threatened with being sent to the hole.”  Nick has filed several grievances in response to the neglect and intimidation exhibited by medical staff, all of which have been dismissed.  He and his family are concerned that his declining health is related to the massive coal waste dump surrounding the prison.

Talking points for phone calls to the Department of Corrections:

  • If you are calling Secretary Wetzel, ask for Secretary Wetzel’s office.  If you are calling SCI-Fayette, ask for Superintendent Coleman’s office. You will be transferred to an assistant in one these offices. Please make calls to both offices.
  • Tell them you are calling about Nick Morrissey #HL6873, a prisoner at SCI Fayette who is experiencing neurological problems including severe muscle spasms, loss of motor function, and memory loss.
  • Explain that Nick has been diagnosed and treated for hyperthyroidism, but his symptoms have persisted and cannot be explained by his thyroid problems.  Medical staff have refused further evaluation and diagnostic testing to determine the cause of his symptoms and have exhibited willful neglect toward his illness.
  • Tell them you are aware that SCI Fayette sits next to a large coal ash dump and that the Human Rights Coalition and the Abolitionist Law Center recently released a report which demonstrates that prisoners are at risk of exposure to pollution from the site. Tell them you are concerned that Nick Morrissey’s health problems could be related to the pollution from the dump.

Request that SCI Fayette:

  • Transfer Nicholas Morrissey from SCI Fayette immediately, due to the risk that his health problems are being caused or made worse by the coal waste dump
  • Provide Nick with immediate, in-person, diagnostic care by a specialist outside the prison, including an MRI.

Report finds disturbing pattern of illnesses at Southwestern PA prison surrounded by coal ash dump

Abolitionist Law Center and Human Rights Coalition release report detailing health problems at SCI Fayette

Contact: Ben Fiorillo                         bfiorillo@gmail.com                         412-482-0041

September 2, 2014: Pittsburgh, PA – Abolitionist Law Center and the Human Rights Coalition have released a report entitled, No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institution Fayette, based on a year-long investigation into the health impacts of exposure to coal waste at the state prison in Fayette County, PA. The report reveals alarming rates of illnesses consistent with exposure to coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal in power plants.

No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institution FayetteSurrounded by “about 40 million tons of waste, two coal slurry ponds, and millions of cubic yards of coal combustion waste,” SCI Fayette is inescapably situated in the midst of a massive toxic waste dump. The prison was built on part of a Coal Refuse Deposit Area owned by Matt Canestrale Contracting, which currently operates a coal ash dump directly adjacent to the prison. Before Matt Canestrale Contracting took it over, the land was a dumping ground for coal waste from one of the world’s largest coal processing plants.

The investigation was launched in August of 2013 by Abolitionist Law Center (ALC), the Human Rights Coalition, and The Center for Coalfield Justice, after receiving reports of high rates of illnesses at SCI Fayette. Prisoners reported a number of overlapping symptoms and diseases, including chronic sore throats, extreme throat swelling, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, vision problems, stomach pain, and sores, cysts, and tumors in their mouths, noses, and throats, as well as on their skin. Many prisoners reported being diagnosed with thyroid disorders or cancer after arriving at SCI Fayette. Residents of the nearby town of LaBelle, PA have also reported high rates of breathing problems and cancer, and have been calling for the coal ash dump to be shut down.

“No Escape” represents the preliminary findings of the investigation, and more research is needed to better understand both the risks posed by the dump and the nature of prisoners’ health problems. Nonetheless, these preliminary findings raise legal questions about the location of the prison. According to the report, “Situating a prison in the midst of a massive toxic coal waste dump may be impermissible under the Constitution if it is shown that prisoners face a substantial risk of serious harm caused by exposure to pollutants from the dump.” ALC attorney Dustin McDaniel put it this way, “If the patterns of illnesses we’re seeing at SCI-Fayette are indeed related to pollution from the dump, then this prison should be shut down.”

Parents of Brandon Palakovic sue prison officials for death of their son in solitary confinement

MEDIA RELEASE: Parents of Brandon Palakovic sue prison officials for death of their son in solitary confinement

Contact: Bret Grote          bretgrote@abolitionistlawcenter.org                412-654-9070

July 8, 2014: Pittsburgh, PA – A lawsuit filed in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania today claims that Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary John Wetzel and other officials in charge of the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Cresson “created and sustained conditions of solitary confinement that subjected Brandon Palakovic to torture, causing him to take his own life on July 17, 2012, at the age of 23. Defendants transformed [Brandon’s] 16-48 month term of imprisonment into a death sentence.”

Read the Complaint HERE.

The case sheds light on the life-and-death consequences of solitary confinement, seeking accountability for illegal conditions of confinement that are increasingly recognized as torture.

IMG_8580

The lawsuit was filed by Renee and Darian Palakovic on behalf of their late son, Brandon. According to a report issued by the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), “despite a history of self-harm and suicide attempts, [Brandon] continued to be placed in isolation, eventually leading to his death.”

In a statement released to mark the filing of the lawsuit, the Palakovic family said:

“Brandon is finally at peace and can no longer be drugged, locked up and ignored, but we know there are others that are still enduring similar nightmares. We hope and pray that somehow, someway Brandon’s death can bring attention to these serious issues within Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions and save other prisoners and their families from this same pain.”

Read the full statement HERE.

SCI Cresson was under investigation by the DOJ at the time of Brandon’s suicide for holding prisoners with mental illness and intellectual disabilities in solitary confinement and depriving them of mental health treatment. The DOJ found that SCI Cresson’s use of solitary confinement on the mentally ill and intellectually disabled constituted cruel and unusual punishment and unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DOJ report stated:

The unconstitutional use of prolonged and extreme isolation on prisoners with serious mental illness . . . has come about because of systemic deficiencies relating to Cresson’s mental health care program. Instead of having systems in place to ensure it is providing adequate mental health care throughout the Facility, Cresson uses isolation to control and warehouse prisoners with mental illness as they become more ill and less stable.

The DOJ expanded its investigation to include the entirety of the PADOC. In February of 2014, the DOJ found that the entire PADOC was in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act for its use of solitary confinement on the mentally ill and intellectually disabled.

Approximately 50% of all prison suicides occur in solitary confinement units. At SCI Cresson, 2 of 3 suicides occurring in 2011 and 2012 occurred in solitary confinement, and the third suicide involved a prisoner who had allegedly spent considerable time in solitary confinement prior to his death. In 2011, 14 of the 17 documented suicide attempts at SCI Cresson occurred in the solitary confinement units. The DOJ also reported that “[SCI] Cresson’s records show that in 2011, there were dozens of incidents involving prisoners on the mental health roster engaging in self-harm in the isolation units, while just two such incidents occurred in the general population.”

There have already been 5 confirmed suicides in the PADOC in 2014 according to official data. At least three, and possibly all five, of the suicides involved prisoners in solitary confinement.

The Palakovics are represented by the Abolitionist Law Center, Mike Healey of the firm Healey and Hornack, and Jules Lobel, who is of counsel to Healey and Hornack.

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Statement from the Palakovic Family

Statement from the Palakovic Family

Nearly two years ago now, our son, Brandon Michael Palakovic, was pronounced dead in a hospital in Altoona after hanging himself with his bed sheet while in solitary confinement (RHU) at Cresson State Correctional Institution. His last moments on earth were of such torment and misery that he felt the only escape was death. As his parents, we have found it hard to conceive of death being his only way out. So we have spent the last two years trying to heal, understand his final decision and memorialize Brandon for the person that he was, not the animal that we have come to find out he was treated like.

Brandon was so much more than what the Cresson SCI guards, therapists, psychiatrists and staff reduced him to. He was funny, vibrant, handsome, intelligent and loving. He was not perfect. He made bad decisions and was paying his debt by serving out the sentence handed down to him. But, while serving his sentence, he needed and deserved proper mental health care for his long-standing, well-documented mental health issues so he could be the person that his family and friends knew him to be.

We hear and read stories practically every day about the need for changes in the mental health care system in the United States and how treatment must be comprehensive, ongoing and closely monitored and that as a society, we cannot ignore this reality. These articles, stories and reports are written by health care professionals with the same licenses, degrees and ethical responsibilities as the therapists and psychiatrists working at Cresson SCI.   So, then how is it that our son and others behind these prison walls were and are somehow different from the rest of the country?   Why did the doctors charged with taking care of Brandon’s mental health care needs feel it unnecessary to monitor his medications and provide regular check-ins or therapy?   They ignored his needs. His only therapy was more time in solitary confinement and more medication. He was taunted and left with no hope and no choice.

Brandon’s death has left a hole in our family and our hearts that can never be filled. We have lost our beloved son. Our son and daughter have lost their big brother. Our parents have lost their first grandson. Our family has lost a nephew, a cousin, a great grandson, a Godson and a future uncle. The loss we have sustained simply cannot be properly expressed in words, but is felt deeply and painfully every day.

The system that we have respected all of our lives and taught our children to respect failed Brandon and feels no remorse for their actions. Instead, they have been cold, non-responsive, rude and evasive at every turn. The evening that we had to identify Brandon’s body was the single worst moment of our lives. When there was confusion at the hospital as we arrived, we had to make a call to Cresson so they could release his body to us. When I identified myself as Brandon’s mother, the guard simply yelled to another person “It’s the mom of the one who hung up last night. What do you want me to do with her?” They clearly didn’t see Brandon as a person. They saw him as a thing; trash that could just be disposed of without a second thought and his death meant nothing to them.

After two years, his decision to end his life still haunts us, and probably always will, but we can at least begin to understand his despair a bit better. Why did Brandon think this was his only option? Cresson SCI provided him with no other options; only more medications that made him suicidal and sick and tormented his thoughts. Why didn’t Brandon ever reach out for help? He did ask for help on numerous occasions. Cresson SCI ignored his requests for help and determined that solitary confinement would be the only help he would get.

Brandon is finally at peace and can no longer be drugged, locked up and ignored, but we know there are others that are still enduring similar nightmares. We hope and pray that somehow, someway Brandon’s death can bring attention to these serious issues within Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions and save other prisoners and their families from this same pain.

Renee and Darian Palakovic

July 6, 2014

Lynne Stewart on the Steady Evisceration of the Right to Counsel

Lynne Stewart is one of the best known peoples’ lawyers in recent history. After a long career fighting against state repression on behalf of her clients, she’s now being held in a federal prison-hospital in Texas, where she is receiving belated treatment for late-stage cancer. Her current illness has been exacerbated by the neglect which generally characterizes medical care for prisoners in America. Despite many calls for compassionate release, the United States continues to insist on keeping her in prison for violating a prison regulation by releasing a press statement for a client, or as the United States calls it, “providing material support to terrorism.”  We urge everyone reading this to sign the petition for compassionate release of Lynne Stewart.

What follows is a statement from Lynne, regarding the continuing rollback of the right to counsel:  Continue reading “Lynne Stewart on the Steady Evisceration of the Right to Counsel”

ALC Protests Coal Ash Pollution at SCI Fayette

SCI Fayette and surrounding coal ash site
SCI Fayette and surrounding coal ash site

September 30, 2013

ABOLITIONIST LAW CENTER COMMENTS REGARDING AIR QUALITY STATE ONLY OPERATING PERMIT NUMBER 26-0057 FOR THE MATT CANESTRALE CONTRACTING, INC. LABELLE SITE, LUZERNE TOWNSHIP, FAYETTE COUNTY

I.           INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

In the August 31, 2013 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, the Department of Environmental Protection published a Notice of Intent to Issue Operating Permit 26-00057 for the Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc. Labelle Site. This permit covers a barge unloading and transferring operation associated with a reclamation area in Luzerne Township, Fayette County. At this site, coal ash and FGD sludge are used as capping material on a coal refuse pile. In accordance with 25 Pa Code §§ 127.426 and 127.428, the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) herein files a timely protest and request for public hearing within 30 days of the publication of the Notice of Intent to Issue the Operating Permit.

II.           THE ABOLITIONIST LAW CENTER IS DEDICATED TO THE PROTECTION OF PRISONERS’ HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA. MORE THAN 2,000 PEOPLE ARE IMPRISONED AT STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION (SCI) FAYETTE, WHICH IS LOCATED ADJACENT TO THE LABELLE SITE. THESE PRISONERS FACE SERIOUS RISKS FROM THE LABELLE SITE, AND THEIR RIGHTS AND THEIR HEALTH HAVE NOT BEEN CONSIDERED IN THIS PROCESS.

The Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) is a Pennsylvania-based, not-for-profit corporation, certified by the Internal Revenue Service as a §501(c)(3) charity. ALC provides legal services to Pennsylvania prisoners and engages in educational and organizing work around injustice in the criminal legal and prison systems. We work closely with prisoners, their family members, and human rights defenders in advocating for the enforcement of international human rights standards in Pennsylvania prisons.

The State Correctional Institution (SCI) Fayette is located in LaBelle, Pennsylvania, and is within less than 500 feet from the LaBelle Site. As of August 31, 2013, SCI Fayette held 2,022 prisoners. State prisoners are by far the largest population group in the town of LaBelle, PA, and they are also the least considered. A sentence to prison does not – and should never – entail a person being subjected to carcinogenic living conditions.

The LaBelle Site is a 500 acre dump is located on top of the hill between the small community of LaBelle and SCI Fayette. SCI Fayette is practically surrounded by the dump, to the north, east, and south. Much of the prison facility lies just 500 feet from the dump boundary. The dump has been operated by Matt Canestrale Contracting LLC (MCC) since 1998, prior to the construction of SCIFayette in 2003. Previously the dump was the site of the largest coal preparation plant in the world operated by J&L Steel, which processed coal from nearby mines. Around 31.5 million tons of waste from processing coal were dumped at this site before it became a coal ash dump. The prep plant eventually closed in the mid-90s.

When MCC, the current operator, acquired the property it signed an agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to “reclaim” the site and was given permission to dump coal ash as part of it’s reclamation plan. DEP says that this is a “beneficial use” of coal ash which will improve soil and water quality at the site. Under this agreement MCC was expected to close the dump. However, MCC has continued to operate well beyond the planned closure date and recently announced plans to begin accepting coal ash from an additional power plant starting in 2017.

The dump has been routinely in violation of state laws including the Clean Streams Law, Air Pollution Control Act, and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act; as well as federal laws including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; and the Clean Air Act. Despite this history of violations, DEP is considering renewing three permits for the site: the Coal Refuse Disposal Area (CRDA) permit, the Air Quality Operating permit and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

On June 13, 2013 the DEP held a hearing to take public comments on the Coal Refuse Disposal Area (CRDA) permit in which dozens of residents demanded that the site be shut down. Public comments and hearings are expected in the coming weeks and months regarding other permit renewals. Despite being much larger than the population of LaBelle, the prisoner population has never been included in the public participation process.

ALC believes that the failure to consider the impact of this site on the prisoner population represents a grave oversight that poses a threat of severe harm to an already vulnerable population. Coal ash contains many chemicals that are toxic to humans including arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, and selenium. The most likely form of exposure to these toxins is by breathing in dust from the site. Ash is routinely seen blowing off of the dump and out of the trucks that carry it. Black dust, presumably from the site, accumulates on houses in the town of Labelle as well as on the prison grounds. The chemicals in coal ash can cause or contribute to many serious health conditions including: skin, eye, nose and throat irritation; asthma; emphysema; hypertension; anemia; heart problems; nervous system damage; brain damage; liver damage; stomach and intestinal ulcers; and many forms of cancer including skin, stomach, lung, urinary tract, and kidney cancers

We understand that many residents of LaBelle suffer from headaches, fatigue, respiratory problems, kidney failure, and several forms of cancer. We have heard reports that some prisoners are already experiencing serious health problems potentially caused by exposure to toxic coal ash.

The ALC is aware of the human rights crisis inside of Pennsylvania prisons, which is currently the only state prison system ever to be under investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Illnesses that are handled with ease outside of the prisons can often become far more complicated and harmful inside these institutions. Prisons have limited budgets and staff to provide health care, and the antagonistic relationship between prison staff and prisoners often leads to further inadequacies in care.

During the past several years, we have learned of a consistent pattern of human rights violations inside of Pennsylvania prisons, including dozens of documented incidents at SCI Fayette. We know how readily prison authorities will hide inconvenient evidence of substandard conditions, neglect, and mistreatment.

For the above reasons, ALC has initiated a fact-gathering effort regarding this matter in collaboration with the Human Rights Coalition, a statewide organization of prisoners, their families, and human rights defenders. We are concerned that state prisoners are being ignored in regard to this issue despite their being the most impacted population in the region. This situation is intolerable and un-democratic, and has no place in a society that values health and human rights.

Given the absence of any consideration of the LaBelle Site’s impact on prisoners, the preliminary reports we have received regarding serious harms to prisoners health, the history of regulatory noncompliance, and recent reports of continuing non-compliance, the ALC strongly opposes renewal of the Air Quality State Only Operating Permit.

III.           ALC REQUESTS A PUBLIC HEARING FOR PERMIT 26-00057 IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE GUIDELINES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AREAS.

Pursuant to 25 Pa. Code § 127.428, ALC requests a public hearing for air quality Operating Permit 26-00057. In addition, as the LaBelle Site is being treated as an Environmental Justice area, the Department must follow the lead of the Office of Environmental Advocate and require the appropriate heightened public participation requirements and permit review scrutiny. We request that the public hearing be held in a location convenient for the residents in and around LaBelle, such as the LaBelle/Luzerne Fire Hall, and at a time in the evening that enables those who work to attend and share their concerns.

IV.           CONCLUSION: THE DEPARTMENT MUST DENY THE RENEWAL APPLICATION FOR OPERATING PERMIT 26-00057.

As demonstrated above and in other submissions presented in this matter, MCC has failed to follow legally-required protocol, posing an extraordinary risk to human health. We urge the Department to deny the renewal application for the reasons stated above. The ALC strongly opposes renewal of the Air Quality State Only Operating Permit, and will continue to pursue this matter to ensure that the human rights of prisoners are not ignored.

Sources

[1] Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Monthly Population Report As Of August 31, 2013, page 1, accessed at: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/document/915870/monthly_population_pdf.

[2] 25 Pa. Code §127.422.

[3] 25 Pa. Code § 123.2; 25 Pa. Code § 123.1(a)(9).

[4] 25 Pa. Code § 127.

[5] Nicholas J. Waryanka, Air Pollution Control Engineer, Air Quality Program, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, “Review of Application for Plan Approval Coal Refuse Reprocessing Facility, Matt Canestrale Contracting, LaBelle Site, Luzerne Township, Fayette County,” July 8, 1998.