my information

--- Issued July 2, 2008

Carcinogens and toxins: arsenic, mercury, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and volatile organic compounds -- the Erie Housing Authority has acted to protect its residents from the health dangers of the proposed Tires-to-Energy plant on Erie’s east side, where many of the Authority’s low-income residents live.

The Authority, including all Board members, a number of residents, and Executive Director John E. Horan, announced its strong opposition to the tire plant at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Click HERE to read entire Tires-to-Energy pland DEP application.

TV news cameras focused on the Erie Housing Authority Wednesday when the Authority
vowed to fight the proposed Tires-to-Energy plant in public housing neighborhoods.

The plant will combust over 28 million tires per year, according to Erie Renewable Energy, LLC, the developer of the plant. The plant is proposed for a site on Downing Avenue between East Lake Road and East 12th Street.

The Housing Authority Board voted unanimously on June 23 to oppose the development of the plant. The Authority will convey its concerns to all local, state and national elected and appointed officials who have an interest in the welfare of the low-income residents of Erie. The Housing Authority of the City of Erie is charged with the responsibility of providing safe, decent and affordable housing for many of these families.

The Authority will also file formal complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding what it sees as a clear case of environmental justice because the plant’s location will disproportionately impact low-income Erie residents and people of color.

"If you read the application to DEP prepared by the developers ( the plant will be a Title V major polluter that will emit a staggering amount of pollutants, including heavy metals and carcinogens, which will fall on low-income neighborhoods,” said Horan. "This is a pure and simple question of environmental injustice,” he said.

"In their own application, they identify the plant as a major polluter. That's all we have to know, folks," he added.

Bishop Dwane Brock, Authority Treasurer, called the plans for the Tires-to energy plant "a travesty."

"I don't understand how this plant even became a consideration," Brock said, referring to the planned placement of the plant on Erie's East Side. "Just because people are low income does not mean they are low in value."

"We plan to fight this in a most aggressive fashion," he said. "It's a matter of not only environmental injustice, but also economic injustice. It's a moral issue also. Those who are behind the plant stand to make a good deal of money by promising to hire minorities and those of low income to build the plant."

"We are going to fight for our residents and make sure this plant does not become a reality in Erie, Pa.," Brock said.

Horan said the document from the developer "is about as damning a document as you would want to read," listing as it does, the plant as a polluter that will spew carcinogens and heavy metal toxins into the air. "If the public read what is in this document, we would not be having this discussion now," Horan said. "The situation would be way different."

Horan vowed that the Authority will take its opposition, and the opposition of its residents. to not only local and state government officials, but to the federal government -- the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Justice -- all warranted because of the impact the plant would have on public housing residents, low income residents in public housing neighborhoods, and people of color in those neighborhoods who do not have the resources to fight the plant themselves. "HUD, for instance, is not in on this yet, but it will be," Horan said.

The resolution passed by the Housing Authority Board notes the following reasons for its action:

  • Erie Renewable Energy’s Plan Approval Application submitted to the PA Department of Environmental Protection for a Tires-to-Energy Plant on Downing Avenue, between East Lake Road and East 12th Street identifies its proposed plant as a Title V major polluter that will emit over 1500 tons of various pollutants per year. Many are carcinogenic, adding to the higher than average cancer rate in Erie.

  • There are three other Title V major polluters in the City of Erie; all are located in the same general vicinity (within two miles) of the proposed Tires-to-Energy Plant.

  • The Housing Authority of the City of Erie provides housing assistance to over 900 families (approximately 2,700 individuals) who reside within one mile of the proposed Tires-to-Energy Plant.

  • The average income of these public housing and Section 8 families is only $13,000 per year, severely limiting their housing options.

  • The 2000 census data show that a disproportionate number of lower-income and minority families residing within a one-mile radius of the proposed plant, compared with the City of Erie as a whole.

  • All, or portions of U.S. Census Tracts 4 through 8 and 13 through 18 on Erie’s east side have been designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as an Environmental Justice “Area of Concern” because of the concentration of lower income and minority populations.

  • According to the Department of Environmental Protection, “numerous studies have been completed which state that communities of color are more likely to be impacted disproportionately by environmental pollution.”

  • Presidential Executive Order 12898 of 1994 requires that federal agencies achieve environmental justice by identifying and addressing disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects on minority and low-income populations.

“This plant would never have been proposed for any of Erie’s more affluent neighborhoods or suburbs,” said Horan. “The fact that it would be built in an area populated by low-income residents and people of color is directly counter to the intent of Executive Order 12898 of 1994, dealing with environmental justice. Since this presidential order was signed, the Environmental Protection Agency has created a National Environmental Justice Advisory Council that has addressed numerous topics including cumulative risks and public participation that may be germane to Erie’s situation concerning this plant.”

According to the tire plant application, about one ton per day of nitrogen oxide (NOx) will be released from the plant, along with many other pollutants -- including carcinogens -- from several smokestacks, including one 300-foot-tall stack. “Much of these pollutants will fall on our low-income public housing and Section 8 residents who reside within a one mile radius and generally downwind from the proposed plant. Our children attend Edison, Burton, Wayne, East High, and the Wiley Charter School, all within a mile of the plant site. Our children also participate and services offered at the Gertrude Barber Center and the Boys and Girls Club. Our children don’t need to be exposed to carcinogens and toxins while they are growing up,” said Horan.
Authority chair Agnes R. Priscaro said that Erie already has a very high cancer rate and that it is unconscionable to build a plant that would increase that rate even more.

“The promise of 60 jobs does not begin to mitigate the health hazards this plant will inflict on our community, especially on those low-income residents of the East Side who have few options when it comes to affordable housing," he said. "These are the people we are here to serve and protect.”

“Whether the plant meets the City’s zoning requirements or the DEP air quality standards is not our issue here, said Horan. “Our issue is whether another major polluter should be permitted in a neighborhood that has a high concentration of low income and minority residents and is already host to three major polluters.” The average household income in the neighborhood, according to the most recent Census, is $24,649 versus $36,446 citywide. The minority population is 33.5% versus 15.5% citywide. “Contrary to assertions made in the tire plant application to DEP, these neighborhood concentrations of low income and minorities are significantly different from the City as a whole,” said Horan.

The Authority’s resolution opposing the plant followed a June 18 meeting of Authority residents and board members with Ms. Ayanna King, Director of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. This was an opportunity for low-income residents of the East Side of Erie to have their opinions heard on the Tires-to-Energy Plant.

About 70 Housing Authority residents attended the meeting and all were against the plant. King said she that she would carry their comments back to Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty and other Pennsylvania DEP officials.

Ms. King’s office is responsible for assuring the fair treatment of low-income and minority communities that will be impacted by developments that create significant pollution and potential health problems in their neighborhoods.

Horan cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency release, below, that lists a wide variety of health and environmental impacts from nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions:

  • Dangerous particles -- NOx reacts with ammonia, moisture, and other compounds to form nitric acid and related particles. Human health concerns include effects on breathing and the respiratory system, damage to lung tissue, and premature death. Small particles penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can cause or worsen respiratory disease such as emphysema and bronchitis, and aggravate existing heart disease.

  • Toxic Chemicals -- In the air, NOx reacts readily with common organic chemicals and even ozone, to form a wide variety of toxic products, some of which may cause biological mutations. Examples of these chemicals include the nitrate radical, nitroarenes, and nitrosamines.

  • Ground Level Ozone (Smog) --- is formed when NOx and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the presence of sunlight. Children, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are susceptible to adverse affects such as damage to lung tissue and reduction in lung function. Ozone can be transported by wind currents and cause health impacts far from original sources. Millions of Americans live in areas that do not meet the health standards for ozone. Other impacts from ozone include damaged vegetation and reduced crop yields.

  • Acid Rain -- NOx and sulfur dioxide react with other substances in the air to form acids which fall to earth as rain, fog, snow or dry particles. Some may be carried by wind for hundreds of miles. Acid rain causes deterioration of cars, buildings and historical monuments; and causes lakes and streams to become acidic and unsuitable for many fish.

  • Water Quality Deterioration --Increased nitrogen loading in water bodies, particularly coastal estuaries, upsets the chemical balance of nutrients used by aquatic plants and animals. Additional nitrogen accelerates "eutrophication," which leads to oxygen depletion and reduces fish …populations.

  • Climate Change -- One member of the NOx, nitrous oxide or N2O, is a greenhouse gas. It accumulates in the atmosphere with other greenhouse gasses causing a gradual rise in the earth's temperature. This will lead to increased risks to human health, a rise in the sea level, and other adverse changes to plant and animal habitat.

    • Visibility Impairment -- Nitrate particles and nitrogen dioxide can block the transmission of light, reducing visibility in urban areas and on a regional scale in our national (and state) parks.

Note: To read the entire application submitted by Erie Renewable Energy, LLC, click on this link:

or more on the hazards of emissions that would be coming from the plant, visit these links: