U.S. Steel and Allegheny County Settle Clairton Coke Works Emissions Issues

U.S. Steel and Allegheny County Settle Clairton Coke Works Emissions Issues

In December 2018, a fire broke out at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works in the cryogenic gas separation facility, which removes sulfur during coke gas processing. Higher levels of sulfur dioxide were released into the surrounding area, affecting people living in communities nearby. This plant has been very troubling for surrounding residents because of previous air quality concerns caused by the plant, and since the fire, it has caused even more problems for the community. Lawsuits from people and organizations have been filed trying to get U.S Steel to reduce pollution in the area.

In April 2019, different groups sued U.S. Steel over emissions coming from the Clairton plant. One of the lawsuits claimed that the emissions caused suffering including burning someone’s throat, causing difficulty breathing, headache, and persistent coughing. The person was seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the company continuing to run the plant while desulfurization controls were down. Another lawsuit claimed that U.S. Steel violated the Superfund law, which requires that companies releasing hazardous pollutants into the air report them. The lawsuit claimed that hundreds of thousands of pounds of hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and other hazardous pollutants were released into the air. The Allegheny Health Department filed a lawsuit against the company last February for this very reason, showing a continuous pattern of pollution.

U.S. Steel responded to the lawsuits by saying that the emissions did not actually harm any residents nearby. It admitted that it released multiple pollutants into the air, it just argued that people were still healthy after being exposed to the pollutants. The company argued that pollutants including hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, benzene, toluene, and xylene do not affect respiratory illnesses and other illnesses cited in the lawsuit against them. It also says that benzene is not a harmful substance or a carcinogen, even though the Environmental Protection Agency considers it a known carcinogen.

After all these problems and lawsuits, U.S. Steel and Allegheny County have finally settled the case involving heavy emissions coming from Clairton Coke Works. The draft settlement that U.S. Steel signed required the company to pay 2.7 million dollars in fines, with 90 percent going to a community benefit trust, which will be used to benefit communities impacted by harmful air pollution. These communities include Clairton, Glassport, Liberty, Lincoln, and Port Vue. The enforcement order does not require the funds to go to specific air quality projects, and as long as the money is going to help with environmental or public health, the funds will be allocated. Smithfield Trust Company will be administering the trust and distributing the funds.

If you were exposed to hazardous air pollutants like benzene and now have cancer, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us at 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form today to see if you have a case.

Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel, Allegheny County finalize Clairton Coke Works emissions settlement” Trib Live (February 10, 2020). [Link]
Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel settlement agreement met with praise, criticism” Trib Live (July 30, 2019). [Link]
Reid Frazier, “‘We don’t understand why they haven’t done this yet’: Groups sue US Steel over emissions data” NPR (August 26, 2019). [Link]

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