Updated: Dec 28, 2022
Staff Attorney John Baillie provided public comment on behalf of GASP.
More than 200 people packed the Clairton Municipal Building Tuesday night, where elected officials, residents, environmental activists and U.S. Steel loyalists spoke out about the proposed settlement between the company and the Allegheny County Health Department—one that would fine the corporation more than $2.7 million, 90 percent of which would be funneled to a community benefit trust per the terms of the agreement.
The proposed agreement addresses three enforcement orders and one administrative order that ACHD issued to U.S. Steel in 2018-19. In addition to the fine, the terms of the proposed settlement would put the company on the hook for millions of dollars in facility upgrades designed to reduce U.S. Steel’s energy consumption and increase its ability to comply with air emissions standards.
But it was the amount of the proposed fine and the particulars of the community benefit trust (or lack thereof) that consumed the lion's share of the more than two-and-a-half-hour public hearing.
Group Against Smog and Pollution’s staff attorney John Baillie provided public comment on behalf of the organization, using his three minutes to express concern over a lack of clarity and details regarding the community trust, including how beneficiaries are determined. He also questioned the process by which projects will be funded, and how the money will be doled out.
Zach Barber, an organizer with the environmental nonprofit Penn Environment noted U.S. Steel’s history of noncompliance with air emissions standards and said that ACHD would shut down a restaurant with as many violations. His driver’s license, he added, would be revoked if he wracked up as many traffic tickets.
A number of residents also spoke out about the fine—as did Inversion Documentary’s Mark Dixon, who called it a “tiny slap on the wrist.”
Elected officials, enviros, and residents alike echoed some of GASP’s concerns about how the community trust would be administered, and who would get the money.
Several Clairton community members said they hoped theirs would be the community that receives the bulk of the money because of its proximity to the site. One woman said that all the money should be reserved for Clairton since it is the “host city” for U.S. Steel.
Both the mayor and deputy mayor of Clairton were also in attendance. The deputy mayor, Richard Ford, used part of his time to laud work that GASP and Clean Air Council have done in the Clairton area to educate residents about air quality issues. He said, though, that he hoped the money from the community benefit trust would be given directly to the elected bodies of the five communities adjacent to Clairton Coke Works.
Editor’s Note: Several members of the media covered the hearing. Here’s a roundup of coverage:
For those who would like to watch the public hearing in its entirety, you can do so thanks to Inversion Documentary. Here’s a link to watch.
Additionally, GASP live-tweeted the event. You can check out those tweets here.