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Environment & Energy

U.S. Steel fined $4.5 million for air pollution in Clairton

Clairton_coke_works_US_steel.jpg
GENE J. PUSKAR
/
AP

U.S. Steel has been ordered to pay a penalty of $4,570,500 for issues that resulted in excess air pollution in the Pittsburgh region, the Allegheny County Health Department announced on Thursday.

The company’s Clairton Coke Works had 831 violations for not filtering emissions when unloading hot coke between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 15, 2022. The health department said this resulted in increased unfiltered emissions.

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According to the enforcement order, the Clairton plant has had process and equipment failures that meant emissions were not properly captured.

The health department said U.S. Steel did not use emissions hoods when transferring coke from ovens at the company’s Clairton Coke Works, which led to 831 uncontrolled push violations and emissions being released.

“For the most recent enforcement order, the Health Department reviewed monthly data for uncontrolled pushes and found that they occurred at the PECs for eight (8) of the plant’s 10 coke batteries,” the health department said in a statement. “The penalty is based on several factors including the nature, severity, and frequency of the violations; the willfulness of such violations; and the impact of such violations on the public and the environment.”

The cost of the penalty is based on factors including the number of violations, the Clairton coke plant’s compliance history, and its status as a Title V Major Source.

Health department officials said the fine is part of an “expanded focus on enforcement opportunities.”

“We are committed to protecting residents’ health and holding sources of pollution accountable,” health department director Dr. Debra Bogen said in a statement. “The Health Department expects 100% compliance, and this latest enforcement action further demonstrates our commitment to protecting air quality for all. I thank my staff for their continued hard work and vigilance.”

The local environmental group Breathe Project praised the decision but said more needs to be done.

"The actions of U.S. Steel are truly irresponsible and directly harm the health of Mon Valley residents, particularly elderly and vulnerable populations," Matt Mehalik, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. "It is time for ACHD to consider requiring Clairton Coke Works to hot-idle when its emissions equipment is not working properly so that our community's health can be protected."

The fine came just weeks after the health department fined U.S. Steel nearly 2 million dollars for gas leaks at the Clairton Coke Works.

In a statement, U.S. Steel said the company was reviewing the enforcement order but “disagreed with many of the assertions raised by ACHD in this order.”

“This is yet another unfortunate example of ACHD choosing to proceed without collaboration, rejecting U.S. Steel’s repeated requests to work on resolving disputes in a more productive and less litigious manner,” a spokesperson said. “U.S. Steel remains committed to working with all stakeholders on improving air quality in the Mon Valley.”

U.S. Steel will have 30 days to appeal or pay the penalty.

Find the full air quality enforcement action here.

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