Met Coke Convention in Pittsburgh Addresses Health of the Industry–But What About the Health of the Community?
In late October, leaders in the coking industry gathered in Pittsburgh for a multi-day conference. Environmental groups showed up as well, reminding the industry of the harm their toxic emissions cause and petitioning them to use this gathering as an opportunity to share ways to reduce their pollution. Below is a transcript of the comments given by our Executive Director.
Good morning. My name is Rachel Filippini and I’m the Director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution. For nearly five decades GASP has worked to improve air quality in SW Pennsylvania.
This week attendees of the Met Coke World summit are meeting to address opportunities for and challenges to their industry. I sincerely hope they will use this as an opportunity to tackle the air pollution they emit, which is a critical issue for Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh ranks as one of the top 10 most polluted cities in the nation with regard to short- and long-term particle pollution—particles which increase the risk of heart and lung disease, adverse birth outcomes, cancer, and premature death. Air pollution from coke making includes these particles, as well as benzene, a known carcinogen. These pollutants and others affect neighboring communities’ health and quality of life. Coke making is a large contributor to our air pollution problems and must be addressed in a serious and considerable way for us to truly make a difference in regional air quality.
This summit is a chance for leaders and experts in the coke and steel making industry to critically analyze and address the pollution they emit and to discuss technologies and work practices that can be used to drastically cut emissions and improve health.
One facility of particular concern is the DTE Shenango Coke Works on Neville Island. Every quarter we check their compliance with a number of permit limitations. Shenango has violated the applicable limitation on the sulfur content of their coke oven gas twenty times in the second quarter of 2015. They also violated combustion stack opacity standards many times in this same time frame. These violations should have been corrected via consent agreements between the company and the Allegheny County Health Department. Unfortunately, the consent agreements are not correcting all the problems and appear to just be a band aid, not a long-lasting solution.
Pittsburgh’s poor air quality harms our quality of life and makes people sick. It makes our region less attractive for businesses and residents to locate here. The Met Coke World Summit conveners should focus not only on the coke and steel making industry’s health and vitality, but the health and vitality of the communities in which they operate and how to reduce the toxic pollution they create.
See the press release from the “play-in” event held by coalition partners nearby here.