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Steelmaker Appeals Latest Penalty Over Clairton Emissions

Reid Frazier
Allegheny Front
At Clairton Coke Works near Pittsburgh, coal is baked at high temperatures to form coke, which is then used to make steel.

U.S. Steel on Thursday appealed a penalty from the Allegheny County Health Department over emissions violations at Clairton Coke Works.

The health department last month fined the company $700,000 for leaks of coke oven gas from the facility during the second half of 2018. Emissions can escape from various parts of the plant such as coke oven doors, and the gas includes pollutants like particulate matter, hydrogen sulfide and benzene, according to the department.

In its appeal, U.S. Steel said the department issued “excessive and unreasonable sanctions” for noncompliance. The company said it’s already implementing a plan to reduce emissions as a result of a separate order from the agency in June 2018.

The steelmaker also said the department relied on inappropriate data and that inspectors have failed to conduct fair evaluations.

This is the third penalty U.S. Steel has challenged over the past year for ongoing emissions problems at Clairton. A health department hearing officer is expected to issue a decision soon on the appeal over the June order, which fined the company over $1 million and threatened to idle some of the plant’s worst-performing batteries.

A hearing on the two most recent fines is slated for Sept. 16-18.

After issuing last month’s penalty, a health department official said the agency was seeing progress at Clairton as the number of emissions violations had dropped over previous quarters.

This story was published in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration between WESA, the Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY covering Pennsylvania's energy economy.