New campaign calls for long-term solutions to Clairton Coke Works’ pollution | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

New campaign calls for long-term solutions to Clairton Coke Works’ pollution

click to enlarge New campaign calls for long-term solutions to Clairton Coke Works’ pollution
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U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works has been a source of intense air and water pollution in the Mon Valley for decades. Now, advocacy group PennFuture is looking to force U.S. Steel to make some long-term changes with a new campaign.

Over the past year, the company has been met with a series of enforcement orders and fines. The company was hit with a $1 million fine and an order to redesign the Coke Works facility by the Allegheny County Health Department. U.S. Steel is appealing the fine and the order. Annually, the works produces more than 4 million tons of coke, a byproduct of coal-mining production that is used to fuel steel facilities.

In a statement, PennFuture president Jacquelyn Bonomo expressed frustration with U.S. Steel's attempts to divert enforcement of fines and regulations, and their investments in places other than the Mon Valley. She says there is a lack of effort on U.S. Steel’s part to improve the safety of Clairton Coke Works, noting that it recently invested $750 million in their flagship facility in Gary, Ind.

“The Mon Valley needs the kind of investments that U.S. Steel is making elsewhere. Residents of this region deserve clean air, and good jobs,” she said. “By increasing its investments here, committing to modernizing with advanced technology, and obeying the laws, U.S. Steel can help the region have clean air and good jobs for the future.”

The organization announced the #ToxicNeighbor campaign on March 26, which encourages citizen engagement and mobilization in seeking to force U.S. Steel to invest in long-term solutions for the coke works.

“Clairton Coke Works’ long history of toxic pollution – caused by a combination of the sheer age of the Works and its multiple failing components – can no longer be addressed through bite-sized fixes,” the organization writes in a petition. “It is time for U.S. Steel to invest in the facility – at levels sufficient to eliminate or significantly reduce problems, pollution, and emergencies.”

PennFuture has outlined the campaign’s three demands: U.S. Steel retire Clairton Coke Works’ oldest coke batteries, modernize the coke works using environmentally and technologically sound upgrades, and generally be more transparent about plant operations.

After a fire at the works in December, a study showed the asthma rates for children in Clairton spiked. According to WESA, U.S. Steel said the company anticipates having the damaged equipment from the fire repaired by April 15.

Besides signing the petition, those interested in supporting the campaign are also encouraged to sign up for action alerts from PennFuture, call U.S. Steel directly, spread the word on social media using the hashtag #ToxicNeighbor, write a letter to the editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or sign up for air quality alerts from Allegheny Alerts.

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