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Allegheny County Announces Draft Agreement with U.S. Steel, Public Comments Sought

Editor’s Note: The below is from a press release issued by Allegheny County on Friday morning. 

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) announced that it has reached a draft settlement agreement with U.S. Steel to address the 2018 order and all subsequent penalty appeals for violations from 2018-19. The agreement requires the company meet the improvement criteria of the 2018 enforcement order, but also provides for additional concessions.

“This settlement ensures that not only are the requirements of the 2018 order satisfied, but there will be major improvements to the battery operation,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, ACHD director. “While we did not get everything we wanted, this settlement represents significant progress and includes vitally important components related to transparency and community benefit. We take our responsibilities to improve air quality very seriously, and this draft agreement is another step in the ongoing efforts to ensure clean air for all.”

The terms of the draft settlement agreement include the following:

  • Repairs to the batteries and battery operations to help reduce fugitive and stack emission
  • Installation of air curtains for Battery B (to improve the capture of fugitive emissions)
  • Battery 15 wall repair to repair leaks
  • Upgraded bag houses for batteries 13, 14, and 15 and 19 and 20 (reduces the emission of particulate matter)
  • Replacement of Battery 15 stack (making it taller for better dispersion)
  • Rebuild of end flues for batteries 1, 2, and 3

Commitments to improve transparency

  • Annual audit by a third-party coke oven and air pollution control performance
  • Expand the deployment of environmental quality improvement program (CITE) including regular reports on achievements; the CITE program emphasizes the importance to environmental performance to the employees of the coking operations
  • Enhanced transparency of operations and maintenance procedures with regular reporting to ACHD

Community benefit provisions

  • US Steel will be paying all fines related to the 2018 order amounting to $2,732,504. Of these fines, 90% ($2,459,253) will go into a community benefit trust for impacted communities while the remaining ten percent ($273,250) will go into the clean air fund
  • Development of a community advisory panel of citizens and elected officials from impacted communities

These improvements are expected to have a significant impact on emissions from the U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works. The department will work to calculate specific estimates for future release.

Finally, in order to provide U.S. Steel with predictability, ACHD has agreed to (1) stipulate penalties for violations based on the department’s civil penalty policy; (2) clarify ambiguities between regulation and source testing requirements; and, (3) define the procedures for developing new coke oven emission standards.

Given the critical nature of the settlement agreement, it is being put out for a 30-day public comment period which will begin on Monday, July 1, 2019. The full draft settlement agreement can be found online at https://www.alleghenycounty.us/Health-Department/Programs/Air-Quality/Public-Comment-Notices.aspx. Instructions for submitting comments are contained in that notice.

Here’s associated media coverage from the announcement:

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