Has the Sun Set on the LTV/Sun Coke Hazelwood Plant?

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Hotline, Spring 1999

The Air Quality Program of the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) reports to us that they could receive an application for an installation permit from Sun Coke Co. for the LTV Hazelwood site. However, they are no longer working on the LTV permit application, and it was sent back to LTV on March 10, 1999 due to lack of completeness. To date, a new application from Sun Coke has not been received.

Sun Coke had hired Larry Simmons of Energy and Environmental Management, Inc. (E2M) to do dispersion modeling which the ACHD is requiring as part of the permit application. This information has been shared with citizens at Criteria Pollutants Subcommittee meetings of ACHD, and has raised questions from citizens and prompted letters to ACHD with detailed technical comments and questions. Two issues that were hotly contested were the rural classification for Hazelwood used in modeling and the meterological data selection of input. Mr. Simmons agreed to run the SO2 and particulate matter (PM) modeling again using the urban classification. Citizens also raised the issue of conflict of interest since Mr. Simmons is the chair of the Criteria Pollutants Subcommittee. He removed himself as chair for the time that the Subcommittee is discussing the modeling for Sun Coke.

The public awareness campaign of the opposition continues with Citizens Helping Our Community (CHOC) taking the lead here. They continue to seek opposition statements from community organizations and these number ten so far. The Greenfield Organization sponsored a public meeting at St. Rosalia’s School on February 2, 1999.

The weeks before Christmas found area citizens attending two Pittsburgh School Board meetings and calling their school board representatives about the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program for the Pittsburgh area. One KOZ area proposal included the site of the proposed LTV/Sun Coke plant. If approved, it would grant tax forgiveness for twelve years for the LTV/Sun Coke plant. This project required the vote of the three taxing bodies who would be giving up their taxes — the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and Pittsburgh Public Schools. Additionally, there are state taxes such as corporate net income tax, sales and use tax, and capital stock and foreign franchise tax. It was not passed by the School Board. This and the expiration of the Federal Synthetic Fuel Tax Credit program ($30 of tax credit for each ton of coke produced) are financial setbacks for Sun Coke and the project as a whole.

GASP has been working with legal and technical consultants. GASP members, along with these consultants, have raised issues relating to health effects of the three types of pollutants emitted from coke plants and likely to endanger residents living and working downwind from the proposed facility. These include exposure to 1. fine particles (PM 2.5), 2. five-minute peak concentrations of SO2, and 3. numerous carcinogens and neurotoxins known to be included in emissions from the coke-making process. We have requested data to facilitate an independent assessment of these health issues. We believe that these concerns must be addressed before any permit application is determined to be complete.

A recent organized effort by CHOC to have a presence at the County Commissioners meetings each Thursday seems to have had the desired effect, at least on one County Commissioner. Commissioner Dawida, in a letter to Dr. Bruce Dixon, ACHD Director, requests that a Selective Catalytic Reduction System for controlling NOx, be a permit requirement. Additionally, he has asked for a Health Department study to look at adverse health effects in the surrounding communities.

So where does all of this leave us? Are we done? Is it over? Sun Coke spokespeople have not said they will no longer pursue an installation permit in Hazelwood. At last report, they are pursuing other KOZ areas in Allegheny County (McKeesport and Duquesne) and other counties. If they do decide to submit an application, things could move quickly. We believe that we must remain vigilant and keep the pressure on.

by Marie Kocoshis, GASP President