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U.S. Steel Has Been Allowed To 'Pay To Pollute,' PennFuture President Says

The Christmas Eve fire at Clairton Coke Works should serve as a wake up call for U.S. Steel to do better by residents, according to PennFuture president and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo.

She says other coke producing facilities across the nation have done a better job of improving air quality in their region than the U.S. Steel facility has for Western Pennsylvania.

"We're really looking for a switch in the way that they approach their business," Bonomo says. "For all intents and purposes, U.S. Steel continues to pay to pollute. They obviously consider this to be a privledge of sorts."

Bonomo is calling for more significant investments and permanent solutions from Clairton Coke Works to benefit workers and the surrounding community. The 25-year-old nonprofit environmental advocacy organization is recommending U.S. Steel replace Clairton’s 10 coke oven batteries, which fuel production of about 4.3 million tons of coke annually. Bonomo tells The Confluence that fines and enforcement actions aren't enough. 

Credit Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto signs controversial gun control legislation Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

Later in the program:

90.5 WESA’s Ariel Worthy reports the National Rifle Association quickly filed a lawsuit on behalf of a few Pittsburgh residents upset with legislation signed Tuesday banning the use of assault-style weapons by Mayor Bill Peduto. The city’s law will go into effect in 60 days, if no court intercedes. 

Pennsylvania recently released a plan to encourage residents to buy more electric cars that run batteries and require electric charging stations. But in Japan, the future of electric cars looks very different. StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Susan Phillips reports on Japanese hydrogen-powered cars that don’t burn any fuel, but instead run on electricity generated by a chemical reaction. Japan hopes to have 200,000 of these hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road in the next six years.

And the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is giving its 14 universities more control over setting tuition rates, which until now have been the same at each school. The new policy is part of a larger redesign effort to stabilize the system in the face of declining enrollment, rising costs and stagnant state funding. Bill Schackner, higher education reporter for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, explains what this new flexibility could mean for schools, students and parents. 

90.5 WESA's Alex Lenigan, Mick Stinelli and Julia Zenkevich contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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