On Jan. 28, our friends at PennFuture issued a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue to U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, the largest coke works in the nation. The lawsuit addresses thousands of violations of combustion stack opacity limits and other regulations that the coke works is subject to, recorded from 1/1/2012 onward.
The facility is about 11 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. It produces around 4.7 million tons of coke per year, as well as byproducts such as coke oven gas, crude coal tar, light oil, elemental sulfur, and anhydrous ammonia. The coke works is a major source of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, and other types of toxic air pollution.
The notice informs U.S. Steel that the conditions causing the violations must be corrected. Paying fines without fixing the problems isn’t an acceptable business practice.
For the extra-curious, check out our documents on Clairton Coke’s air quality permits here. Stay tuned to GASP and PennFuture for updates on this important issue.
Full press release:
Local Air Quality, Environmental Organizations Applaud Efforts to Increase Accountability at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works
PITTSBURGH – Earlier today, PennFuture announced a 60-day notice of intent to file a lawsuit against U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works. Clairton is the largest producer of coke in the nation, and about 37,000 people live in the shadow of the Mon Valley facility.
While the plant has been known to regularly exceed emissions regulations, PennFuture has found that it has been in violation of pollution limits approximately 6,700 times from January 1, 2012 to May 31, 2015. That’s akin to polluting over five times a day, every day for nearly three and a half years.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes coke emissions as among the most toxic of all air pollutants, and classifies them as carcinogens. Earlier this year, the Clairton facility landed near the top of PennEnvironment’s “Toxic Ten” list, which tracks the worst industrial polluters in the region.
Despite a promise in 2012 that a new oven would bring Clairton more in-line with the laws in place to keep both nearby residents and its workers safe, the facility has continued to fall dramatically short of legal levels of toxic emissions.
Air quality and environmental experts from across Allegheny County released the following statements in response to today’s news:
“Laws that regulate industrial polluters are in place for a very simple reason: to protect the health of all the families and individuals living in a given community,” said Joe Minott, Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel. “Clairton has a long and storied history of non-compliance – this isn’t a new problem. They should be held accountable for flouting the laws meant to keep all of its neighbors safe and healthy.”
Court Gould, Executive Director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, remarked, “For the new year, Sustainable Pittsburgh identified seven tipping points that are accelerating a more Sustainable Pittsburgh region. One such tipping point is that regional and enterprise-based competition for talent and investment turns upon the currency of quality of life—healthy people, supportive communities, clean air, clean water, and natural amenities. Leadership in our region increasingly recognizes that going even further than simply regulatory compliance is imperative for our region to prosper and compete on the global stage.”
“Clairton is number three on our Toxic Ten list,” said Stephen Riccardi, Western Pennsylvania Field Associate for PennEnvironment. “PennEnvironment has made calling out the actions of coke producers, like those who own Clairton, a priority. We support this latest effort to hold the facility’s owners responsible for the toxic emissions they pump into the air on a daily basis. Actions like this are an important step toward protecting the health of our region.”
“Clairton is the largest producer of coke in the nation, it is obligated not to break the law, and should have the well-being of their workers and those who live nearby as a top priority,” said Rachel Filippini, executive director of GASP. “The emissions from coke ovens are among the most toxic out there – linked to heart and lung disease, cancer, adverse birth outcomes, and premature death. It’s time for Clairton and other industrial facilities across our region to comply with the law.
“Toxic emissions have real health impacts on the communities that surround facilities like Clairton,” said Thaddeus Popovich, co-founder of Allegheny County Clean Air Now. “Every single day, hardworking families bear the brunt of a facility’s refusal to follow health guidelines – whether it’s having to close your windows on a warm spring day or having to deal with exacerbated asthma or even worse. We’re pleased to see efforts to hold Clairton accountable for its actions, and hope this signals a healthier and more responsible chapter in their operations.”
“Residents that live near the Clairton facility have a cancer risk due to air pollution that’s 20 times higher than the average American. When you pair that statistic with the fact that the coke works has been in violation of air guidelines at least once a day for the past two and a half years, it’s clear there’s a problem,” said Cassi Steenblok, Program Organizer with Clean Water Action. “It’s time for Clairton’s owners to recognize they have a role to play in strengthening our community – and first and foremost, that means looking out for the health of their employees and their neighbors.”