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What You Need to Know About the Community Trust Established by the U.S. Steel, ACHD Emissions Settlement

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) on Monday made public its finalized settlement agreement with U.S. Steel, giving residents the first look at details of an associated $2.46 million community trust.

The nine-page document, dated Jan. 30, clarifies several details related to the trust, the communities it benefits, who will serve on a board overseeing it, and how meetings will be conducted and projects selected for funding.

GASP in July submitted formal comments regarding the settlement agreement, suggesting specifically that the health department put the details related to the trust out for public comment. In a comment response document released Monday, the health department responded to that request, saying only: “Putting up the trust form to public comment is neither legally necessary nor efficient.”

GASP also offered comments suggesting that the agreement specify who would administer the trust and advocated for the trust board to include a representative from each of the adjacent communities. While these details were not included in the original draft, they were incorporated into the final agreement.

Now that the details of the trust have been made public, here are some key takeaways:

  1. The communities that will benefit from the trust include Clairton, Glassport, Liberty, Lincoln, and Port Vue. Each of these communities will have a separate fund established. The U.S. Steel Community Benefit Trust funds will be allocated to the communities based on a methodology that takes into consideration population and area measured in square miles. Using that methodology, it was determined that Clairton will receive 26.7 percent of the funds, Lincoln will receive 21.9 percent, Glassport will receive $19.9 percent, Portvu will receive 16.3 percent, and Liberty will receive 15.1 percent.
  2. The U.S. Steel Community Benefit Trust will be governed by a board composed of one resident from each of the five communities “chosen by the respective adjacent communities in whatever manner they choose.” Each community will also select an alternate and ad hoc member to attend a meeting in instances where the primary member cannot. The board will meet in private, at a regular place and time at least once every six months. The agreement stipulates that these meetings must be listed on the official websites of each of the five communities at least 60 days in advance.
  3. The purpose of these meetings is to consider and approve projects for funding. To be considered, a project must be “anticipated to improve, protect, or reduce the risk to public health or the environment” and submitted to the board at least 30 days before a meeting. The money can go toward physical infrastructure improvements such as the construction of a playground or the renovation of green space. Projects that foster the “creation or expansion of programs that are aimed at directly improving the well-being of residents” will also be considered. Please note: While the settlement agreement addressed ongoing emissions problems at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, the associated supplemental environmental projects do not need to be related to air quality. At these meetings, majority rules. If for any reason a representative from one of the five communities is not available to attend and vote it will be “deemed an affirmative vote in favor of any matter before the trust distribution board for a vote at such a meeting.” The agreement also indicates that if the board votes to reject a project, “reasonable detail of the reasons” will be provided.
  4. Once a project is approved, the distribution of funds will occur within 30 days. Updates about the progress of each project will be provided at each subsequent meeting. The agreement also includes language that gives the board the authority to terminate funding of projects “that have been improperly administered.”
  5. Smithfield Trust Co. will be paid $3,000 per quarter to administer the fund. Semi-annual reports detailing receipts and disbursements will be submitted to each of the respective communities, which must post them to their official websites within 60 days of receipt. Copies of these reports, to be submitted on Jan. 31 and July 31 annually, will also be sent to the Allegheny County Health Department and U.S. Steel.

“Given the establishment of this community benefit trust was a brand new way of supporting the communities most impacted by air pollution from the Clairton Coke Works, it would have behooved the health department to put the specific details related to it out for public comment,” said Rachel Filippini, Executive Director of GASP.  “The establishment of this trust is significant for the community and we wanted to be sure they got it right.”

Editor’s Note: You can read the entire document detailing the trust here. 

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