Supplemental Environmental Projects Urged in Shenango Settlement

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Hotline, Spring 2000

As the Environmental Protection Agency’s suit against Shenango, Inc. for repeated air quality violations nears its end, GASP, joined by Clean Water Action (CWA), has urged the U. S. District Court to allocate something over $250,000 of the $2.1 million to be paid by Shenango in penalties to support four supplemental environmental projects aimed at reducing further pollution at the Neville Island site. In their memorandum to the court, GASP and CWA argued that “the resolution of this matter should provide maximum benefit to the neighbors who have borne the brunt of the many years of air pollution violations at the Shenango Coke Works. Penalty payments by themselves do not represent concrete action at the plant to prevent the next pollution problem and lift the burden of pollution from the community, especially since past penalties have proved inadequate to deter repeated violations by Shenango.” The four proposed projects are these:

  1. An environmental audit, estimated to cost $86,000 to $94,000, would make a comprehensive review of the Shenango coke plant’s operation. It would aim at better compliance with pollution regulations.
  2. Enhanced monitoring of Neville Island, estimated to cost $130,000, would measure the air in the vicinity for compliance with pollution regulations. It would help agencies and companies design programs to reduce dangerous emissions.
  3. Training citizens as smokereaders, estimated to cost $27,950, would train Neville Island neighbors to evaluate the density of stack emissions from Shenango and other plants, providing the Allegheny County Air Quality Inspectors timely and professional information. Currently only one inspector covers all of Neville Island.
  4. A Community Oversight Panel, estimated to have “a modest budget,” would bring together representatives of Shenango, government agencies, the surrounding community, GASP and CWA regularly to discuss Shenango’s meeting of its responsibilities for controlling pollution. William V. Luneburg, one of the attorneys for GASP and CWA, said May 5 that he did not expect the Court to issue its final consent decree for several weeks. But if the court does not modify its decree to include the GASP and CWA proposals, they might still be funded by Allegheny County. Under the present terms of the decree, the Allegheny County Clean Air Fund is to receive $825,750 of the $2.1 million in penalties to be paid by Shenango. In our discussions, some officials in the County have indicated their support for the SEPs.

    LTV Case Moves Forward
    On another front, the case between the Justice Department, Allegheny County Health Department and GASP as a legal intervenor against the former LTV Coke Plant in Hazelwood for serious past violations of the federally approved PA State Implementation Plan moves forward with both sides preparing their case. GASP has taken statements from GASP members who believe they were adversely affected by operation of the LTV plant. That and other information was provided to LTV in accordance with court rules.

    Ultimately GASP hopes to argue the case for fines from LTV commensurate with the seriousness of their air violations and provide the affected communities with Supplementary Environmental Plans from settlement money.

    by David Fowler, GASP Board Member