top of page

Action Alert: Weigh in on How U.S. Steel Air Quality Settlement Money Should Be Spent - Here’s How (and Why)

Good news, friends: A LARGE pot of money is now available to support public health in the Mon Valley - and Allegheny County is seeking YOUR input on how exactly it should be spent.

We’re talking, like, $2.25 million.

Here’s what’s going on: The funding is thanks to a settlement reached between PennEnvironment, the National Environmental Law Center, Clean Air Council, the Allegheny County Health Department, and U.S. Steel regarding the 2018 fire that knocked out pollution controls at the steelmaking giant’s Clairton Coke Works facility.

Here’s how our pals at PennEnvironment explained it:

On Christmas Eve 2018, a catastrophic fire broke out at the Clairton Coke Works. It destroyed critical equipment at the facility that reduces the plant’s emissions of sulfur dioxide, a potent respiratory irritant linked to asthma, and benzene, which is a known carcinogen. 

Our lawsuit showed that the fire was caused by a chain reaction of mechanical and design failures that were completely avoidable, and resulted from decades of disrepair and problems long-known by U.S. Steel.

Following the fire, pollution levels coming from the plant skyrocketed.  Sulfur dioxide pollution at the Clairton Coke Works spiked nearly 25 times higher than usual

Yet, instead of shutting down the plant to protect public health and obey the law, U.S. Steel continued operating without pollution controls for more than 100 days, violating their Clean Air Act permits more than 12,000 times.

As the uncontrolled air pollution levels soared at the Coke Works, so too did health problems in nearby communities. Residents reported burning lungs and abnormally bad asthma attacks.

So back to the money…

The Allegheny County Economic Development (ACED) is seeking public input on ways in which their portion of the settlement money may best be used to help support public health within the communities most affected by that fire.  

ACED this week announced a public hearing for this very purpose slated for 5 p.m. THIS Friday, May 17 in Clairton. You can get the skinny on that here.

But some things you should know: We get it, 5 p.m. on a Friday ain’t ideal. BUT, here’s the good news:

  • Folks don’t need to sign up in advance to speak 

  • There is a virtual option to participate

  • This hearing is just the first one - stay tuned for further opportunities to weigh in 

  • Attending the hearing isn’t the only way to share your thoughts - residents are also encouraged to fill out this survey

“We hope there is a robust turnout for the hearing and that as many people as possible share their thoughts on how best to spend this money,” GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said. “So much good can be done.”

Editor’s Note: Not sure what to ask for? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Asthma clinics

  • Air filters for front-line community members

  • Other projects that help mitigate exposure to air pollution

bottom of page