Environmental advocates seek changes at Clairton Coke Works: People shouldn’t have to ‘hold their breath’

  • Adam Tunnard/WESA

Adam Tunnard / WESA

Melanie Meade, a Clairton resident, says that current efforts to address U.S. Steel’s pollution from the Clairton Coke plant have had little effect on the company’s actions.

Local environmental organizations held a sidewalk press conference today in front of the U.S. Steel Tower downtown, calling on U.S. Steel to reduce emissions from its Clairton Coke Works plant. The event comes in response to Monday’s fire at the coke facility, the second in sixth months, which briefly knocked out pollution controls.

“Community members should not be expected to hold their breath,” said Rachel Filippini, executive director at the Group Against Smog and Pollution. She spoke in favor of modernization of the plant and improving existing infrastructure to reduce emissions.

Other speakers approached the issue differently. Melanie Meade, a lifelong Clairton resident, said that if the facility continues to have issues like Monday’s fire, it should simply be “shut down.” She also said that the fines U.S. Steel has received for pollution, like May’s $300,000 fine from the Allegheny Department of Health, are practically unnoticed by the corporation, like “pocket change.”

Geoff Bland of Clean Water Action said U.S. Steel’s planned $1 billion investment in the Mon Valley won’t adequately address emissions from the Clairton plant. He stated that these investments are “certainly not going to be affecting these [sulfur dioxide] emissions that we’ve been worried about.”

On Monday, the Allegheny County Health Department gave U.S. Steel 20 days to control its emissions at the plant or face a shutdown.

In an emailed statement, U.S. Steel stated that in addition to building a new cogeneration facility at the Clairton plant, they are “absolutely committed to making even more substantial investments in Clairton to make further environmental improvements.”

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