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ACHD Air Pollution Advisory Committee: Board of Health Should Approve Coke Oven Reg Revisions to Public Comment

After a lengthy and sometimes contentious back-and-forth discussion, the Allegheny County Health Department’s Air Advisory Committee on Monday voted 5-4 to recommend that the Board of Health send revisions to its coke oven gas regulations out for public comment.

GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini serves on the committee and was among the yes votes.

While some members of the advisory committee who have industry or U.S. Steel ties suggested that the two parties meet again to hash out their differences, representatives from both parties were clear: they were at an impasse.

Representatives of U.S. Steel – the sole coke oven operator in Allegheny County – said they were “disappointed” in the proposed changes. At issue? The company said it felt the revisions were “too stringent.”

If approved, ACHD’s proposed revisions to the coke oven gas regulations included would, among other things: 

  • Immediately lower the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) grain-loading standard from 40 to 35 grains per 100 dry standard cubic feet of air (dscf) and then (in 2025) further lowering the standard to 23 grains per 100 dscf. 
  • Add six sulfur compounds to the calculation for determining compliance with the H2S standard
  • Clarify technical language and definitions to mirror state Department of Environmental Protection regulations.
  • Remove specific inspection and observation methods.

Representatives from U.S. Steel contended that ACHD failed to provide justification for many of the revisions as required by the high-profile 2019 settlement agreement.

GASP late last year petitioned ACHD to keep its 2018 promise to tighten up its coke oven regs to reduce hydrogen sulfide – an air toxin that smells like rotten eggs – and stave off associated exceedances of the state standard.

“It’s important to remember why these regulations are so important: Coke-making is a primary source of hydrogen sulfide in Allegheny County – and U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works is the largest emitter of H2S not only locally, but in the entire state,” said Rachel Filippini, GASP’s executive director. 

So far this year there have been 19 days during which H2S concentrations at ACHD’s Liberty monitor mathematically exceeded the state standard.  

The Board of Health will vote on whether or not to take the committee’s recommendation and approve the revisions to go out to public comment at its Nov. 4 meeting.

You can read the draft revisions here

Editor’s Note: The purpose of the Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee is to make recommendations to the Board of Health regarding additions and/or changes to the air quality rules and regulations for Allegheny County. The committee also advises both the Health Department and the Board of Health on the management of air quality in Allegheny County. The committee’s next meeting is slated for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14. The meeting will be held virtually. GASP will publish information on the agenda and how to attend when that information becomes available.

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