Allegheny County levees $307K in fines on U.S. Steel for Clairton air pollution violations | StateImpact Pennsylvania Skip Navigation

Allegheny County levees $307K in fines on U.S. Steel for Clairton air pollution violations

  • Jillian Forstadt/WESA
US Steel's Clairton Coke Works.

Reid R. Frazier / StateImpact Pennsylvania

US Steel's Clairton Coke Works.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) has imposed another $307,800 in air pollution control fines on U.S. Steel.

The penalties result from pollution and permit violations at Clairton Coke Works — North America’s largest coke plant — between April and June 2022.

A 2019 settlement between the company and ACHD outlined penalties for each hour the company’s coke oven batteries are out of compliance. According to the agreement, the department has two coke oven inspectors stationed inside the facility five days a week.

In accordance with the settlement’s terms, 90% of penalties — or $277,020 — will be paid to a community fund benefiting residents in five communities surrounding the coke plant: Clairton, Glassport, Liberty, Lincoln and Port Vue.

As of June 2022, the fund had distributed more than $2.58 million to community beneficiaries and maintained a balance of $2.15 million.

The remaining 10% of the second-quarter penalty, or $30,780, will be paid to the county’s Clean Air Fund. Disbursements go to projects that improve air quality within Allegheny County, studies of the health effects of air pollution and monitoring efforts.

Distribution of those funds, however, could be halted by litigation. A spokeswoman for U.S. Steel said the company plans to dispute the latest round of fines and accused the county of breaching inspection conditions agreed upon in the settlement, as well as generating flawed readings.

“ACHD, again, breached its obligations under the June 2019 agreement and is reluctant to conduct inspections in a fair, consistent, reliable, and credible manner,” Amanda Malkowski, media relations manager for U.S. Steel, wrote in a statement on behalf of the company. “U. S. Steel intends to invoke dispute resolution per the 2019 Settlement Agreement for the non-conforming observations and penalties. For many deviations in the demand, ACHD did not conform to the inspection methods to which it agreed to in the June 2019 settlement agreement and EPA proven methodologies, nor did the inspections generate credible readings.”

The company announced earlier this week that it will begin closing the Clairton plant’s three oldest coke batteries later this month. The move is expected to reduce emissions from the plan, which is by far the largest source of particle pollution in Allegheny County.

Overall, the county levied more than $9 million in fines on the Clairton plant in 2022 for failing to comply with emissions standards over the past several years. That includes $458,000 for violations that occurred during the first quarter of that year.

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