Editor's Note: This blog has been updated to include a link to GASP's formal written comments.
GASP joined residents and fellow environmental advocates at a public hearing Wednesday to demand the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) create a comprehensive compliance schedule for U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works facility.
You can get the skinny on the hearing regarding portions of the Clairton Coke Works' Title V operating permit on our blog here.
Here are the comments that GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell presented:
Good evening. My name is Patrick Campbell - I am the executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), a nonprofit organization working to improve our regional air quality since 1969.
U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works emits myriad harmful pollutants - from fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide to hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and benzene. The facility is the largest coke plant in North America and - as residents know all too well - is a major source of air pollution with a troubling history of noncompliance with air quality regulations.
Despite this, the amended Title V operating permit Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) issued to U.S. Steel for its Clairton Coke Works facility still does not include a proper compliance schedule for these emissions. Such a comprehensive compliance schedule is necessary and would help stem emissions violations at the Clairton Coke Works - violations that ACHD said are regular and ongoing.
In an Oct 20, 2023, letter from ACHD to U.S. Steel, the department states: “ACHD regularly inspects and observes violations of . . . charging, traveling, door areas, charging ports, offtake piping, pushing, combustion stacks, soaking, and miscellaneous topside emissions.” The department added, “[t]hose violations have been ongoing for years and continue to occur.”
While the permit now includes more work practices and a smattering of OSHA regs, they do not supplement the permit record as EPA demanded. The compliance schedule must include stick-and-carrot milestones and benchmarks. There must be deadlines and consequences for missing them. And the penalties for not meeting these benchmarks need to be lost production for U.S. Steel, not additional fines.
Because despite a high-profile settlement agreement in 2019 between ACHD and U.S. Steel intended to get the Clairton facility back into compliance with air quality regulations, the company has since racked up millions more in emissions-related fines.
The sad truth is that while ACHD and U.S. Steel duke these issues out in legal filings, the emissions violations in Clairton persist, impacting residents’ health and quality of life. The time to hold U.S. Steel accountable is now and the way to do it is to amend the Clairton Coke Works’ Title V permit to include a proper compliance schedule.