GASP Issues 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue Shenango Coke

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To learn more about our previous work with Shenango Coke, including the text of our 60-day notice, please visit our project page here. Below is the text of our press release.

For Immediate Release:

February 12, 2014 at 11 a.m.

Contacts:

Rachel Filippini, GASP, 412-924-0604, rachel@gasp-pgh.org

Chelsea Perkins, Clean Air Council, 215-567-4004 ext. 103, cperkins@cleanair.org

Elaine Labalme, PennFuture, 412-996-4112, labalme@pennfuture.org

Tom Hoffman, Clean Water Action, 412-523-2255, tomhoffman@cleanwater.org

Shenango Coke Works Violates Air Quality Regulations on 330 of the Last 432 Days

Residents worried about health effects of plant’s pollution team up with environmental organizations to file legal action

Residents near Neville Island and environmentalists held a press teleconference today describing ongoing and numerous violations of air emissions standards at the Shenango Coke Works[1] on Neville Island. A review of recent Shenango compliance reports covering a 432-day period shows that on at least 330 of those days, one or more air violations occurred at the facility.  In response, on February 6th, the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) filed a notice of intent to sue Shenango for Clean Air Act violations at the coke plant.  Participating in today’s teleconference were residents from areas near the plant, representatives of GASP and health professionals.

The action is part of a multi-group collaborative effort to reduce emissions from the Shenango facility.  Participants in the cooperative effort include: individuals living near the Shenango facility, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Group Against Smog and Pollution, and Women for a Healthy Environment.

The notice of intent to sue focuses on violations from July 26, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013. 

This 432-day period includes:

·         at least 264 days when emissions from Shenango’s combustion stack violated opacity standards,

·         at least 81 days when emissions from pushing operations violated opacity standards,

·         at least 39 days when emissions from coke oven battery doors violated visible emission standards,

·         at least 30 days when emissions from charging operations violated visible emission standards, and

·         at least 12 days when combusted coke oven gas exceeded hydrogen sulfide limits.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) describes coke oven emissions as “among the most toxic of all air pollutants”[2]  Emissions from coke plants include benzene and other carcinogens, hydrogen sulfide, and significant quantities of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide.  The violations at Shenango result in increased emissions of these harmful pollutants. Preventing future violations at this facility is particularly important given its location: The facility is less than one mile from the densely populated communities of Ben Avon, Avalon, Bellevue, and Emsworth and less than five miles from Point State Park.

“Residents’ concerns about how the Shenango coke works is affecting their health should be the top priority for everyone. Obviously that is not the case since the company continues to pollute the air they breathe and get away with it,” said Tom Hoffman, Western PA Director for Clean Water Action. “We’re very pleased GASP is taking the first step in filing legal action to protect public health.”

“Considering the potential human health impact pollution from this plant may pose, Shenango should be doing everything in its power to minimize emissions and prevent violations. Based on the plant’s recent compliance record, we don’t believe that’s happening,” said GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini.

“As western PA’s vibrant tech and service industries continue to expand, dismal air quality reports listing Allegheny County among the worst polluted in the country, are bad for business. The health department is responsible for enforcing air laws in order to stop Shenango from releasing toxic chemicals into our air, which continues to pollute the lungs of area citizens. Failure to enforce air quality standards puts both our health and our economy at risk,” said Cindy Dunn, President and CEO at PennFuture

“From my perspective, the Shenango coke plant is out of control. It is a danger to the health and well being of its workers and nearby residents,” said Ben Avon resident Ted Popovich.

“Both Shenango and the Allegheny County Health Department need to seriously address the chronic pollution from the plant. For community members to be adequately protected from harmful air pollution, both entities must agree to substantially reduce the toxic air emissions that have been going on since the July 2012 consent decree,” said Joe Minott, Executive Director, Clean Air Council.

“Living right across the river from Shenango with an 8-year-old son who has asthma, I’m extremely concerned about the illegal air pollution coming from the facility,” said Angela Garcia, a resident of Bellevue. “We need the regulatory agencies and environmental groups to do everything within their power to stop the coke works from continuing to pollute the air my family and I breathe.”

The notice of intent to sue is the first step in initiating a citizen lawsuit to enforce emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.  If the violations remain unresolved 60 days after giving notice, the citizen suit can proceed in federal district court.


[1] Produced from coal, metallurgical coke is a key ingredient in the iron and steel production process.

[2] http://www.epa.gov/airtoxics/coke/cokefact.pdf

The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) is a Pittsburgh-based environmental non-profit founded in 1969 and dedicated to improving air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania and surrounding regions.

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with staff in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre. The organization’s activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.

Clean Water Action has more than 100,000 members statewide in Pennsylvania and is the nation’s largest grassroots group focused on water, energy and environmental health.  Clean Water Action’s 1 million members work for clean, safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening pollution, and creation of environmentally-safe jobs and businesses. Clean Water Action’s nonpartisan campaigns empower people to make democracy work.

Clean Air Council is a non-profit environmental organization headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Council has members throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. For more than 40 years, the Council has fought to improve air quality across the region. The Council’s mission is to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

1 Comment Thus Far

  1. I applaud the lawsuit. Ideally this
    plant should be prevented from
    operating until they are 100%
    compliant. Beyond that, many of
    us would like to see the plant
    closed. It is literally killing people.
    An epidemiological study of the surrounding area could provide
    compelling evidence for that.

    - Alan Horowitz | 02:48pm 12 Feb 14

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