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East Pittsburgh Woman Files Class Action Law Suit Against U.S. Steel Over Emissions from Christmas Eve Fire

An East Pittsburgh woman on April 9 filed a class action lawsuit against U.S. Steel, claiming the company was grossly negligent/reckless in the way it handled a Dec. 24 fire at its Clairton plant and its aftermath.

The suit specifically alleges that U.S. Steel:

  • Failed to develop and/or maintain adequate policies and procedures as necessary to prevent the Dec. 24, 2018 Clairton Plant fire;
  • Failed to develop and implement an adequate mechanical integrity program necessary to prevent any such fires;
  • Failed to develop, design, construct, inspect, maintain, operate, control, and/or engineer proper gas processing center compressors, piping, and/or pressure letdown devices as necessary to counter the risk of explosion or fire in its gas processing
  • Failed to develop and employ a backup release management plan to control the release of noxious gas and other harmful emissions in the event of a fire;
  • Failed to notify Plaintiff and the Class of the Dec. 24, 2018 Clairton Plant Fire and the hazardous emission levels until Jan. 9, 2019;
  • Failed to sufficiently reduce production and thereby emissions at the Clairton Plant following the Dec. 24, 2018 fire and until the emission reduction system was repaired and functioning
  • Otherwise failed to develop, design, construct, inspect, maintain, operate, control and/or engineer its Clairton Plant to prevent catastrophic fires and uncontrolled releases of noxious gas and other harmful emissions.

In the suit, attorneys for Linda Hernandez, 38, write that the fire “triggered repeated high health alerts from the Allegheny County Health Department, causing widespread nuisance discomfort (offensive odor, burning eyes, nose, and throat, difficulty breathing, sleep loss, headaches, anxiety) and impeding area residents’ use and enjoyment of their homes.”

Hernandez seeks “lost use and enjoyment damages to vindicate private property rights – not enforcement of environmental statutes, regulations, or regulatory permits; She seeks monetary damages, not injuctive relief.”

Punitive damages are also being sought.

Her attorneys write several times throughout the 18-page Notice to Defend document: U.S. Steel should have known better.

“The prolonged discomfort experienced throughout the class area and the repeated public warnings that alarmed the class-area residents and caused them to shutter inside their homes were all foreseeable,” the court document reads. “Defendant knew or should have known this would occur.”

Hernandez, who experienced breathing problems and other physical ailments after the fire and through April 4, is seeking to represent residents who live in 22 affected communities.

“Properties have been invaded for more than three months by offensive odors and noxious emissions,” the court document reads.

Hernandez says in the lawsuit that those odors and fumes stopped her from walking her dogs outside, prompted her to keep her granddaughter indoors, and otherwise affected her ability to enjoy her property.

U.S. Steel has 20 days from April 9 to respond to the suit.

Editor’s Note: GASP has published several blogs about the Clairton fire, as well as subsequent emissions complaints and enforcement actions. The court document mentioned above can be read in its entirety here: Class Action Law Suit Filed Against U.S. Steel.

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