U.S. Steel is Being Sued for Pollution relating to the December 2018 Fire at Clairton Coke Works

U.S. Steel is Being Sued for Pollution relating to the December 2018 Fire at Clairton Coke Works

U.S. Steel is being sued federally for the second time since the December 2018 fire at their Clairton Coke Works Plant. The fire lasted five hours and occurred in the cryogenic gas separation facility, which separates sulfur from the coke gas processing operation. After the fire, there were higher than normal sulfur dioxide emissions, which affected 22 surrounding communities. This lead to a class action lawsuit being filed in April, alleging the sulfur dioxide emissions caused someone’s burning throat, difficulty breathing, headache, and persistent coughing while a nearby resident was decorating her home. She was seeking compensatory and punitive damages against U.S. Steel for not preventing the fire and continuing to operate the plant while the desulfurization controls were down.

Lawsuits are not the only problem U.S Steel has been dealing with because of air pollution. The Allegheny Health Department fined the company $707,568 in late March because of excessive air pollution, which brought the total fines against the company to $2.3 million within one year. Enforcement orders went against the company in June and October of last year, costing the company $1 million and $620,000, which U.S. Steel has appealed.

This second lawsuit, brought on by Clean Air Council in Philadelphia, alleges that U.S. Steel violated the Superfund law, or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). This law requires that, when hazardous pollutants are released into the air, companies that are releasing the pollutants report this to the National Response Center. Clairton Coke Works released hundreds of thousands of pounds of hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and other hazardous pollutants into the air, and did not report it. This resulted in many people’s air quality becoming very poor without their knowledge. U.S. Steel also released coke oven gas pollution, violating Clean Air Act permit requirements. Another lawsuit was filed by the Allegheny Health Department, PennEnvironment, and Clean Air Council because of this in February.

U.S. Steel continues to pollute the surrounding communities where it operates. The company seems to not think about its neighbors, but instead its bottom line. Fines continue to go against the company, but this does not seem to stop it from polluting the surrounding areas. If companies are repeat offenders, fines should be raised to punish and deter them from polluting again. People deserve to breathe clean air, so companies need to be held accountable for polluting the areas where they operate.

If you were exposed to a harmful air pollutant like benzene and now have cancer because of a company’s reckless actions, you may be entitled to compensation. Fill out our contact form or call 412-471-3980 to speak to an attorney and learn your options.

Don Hopey, “U.S. Steel fined over $700,000 for emissions at Clairton Coke Works” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (April 1, 2019). [Link]
Jamie Martines, “U.S. Steel facing a 2nd federal lawsuit tied to December fire at Clairton Plant” Trib Total Media (August 26, 2019). [Link]
“Lawsuits filed over coke pollution include class action on Clairton” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (April 16, 2019). [Link]

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