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It’s Official: Allegheny County Health Department’s Updated Coke Oven Regulations Approved for Public Comment

Allegheny County Board of Health on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to send long-awaited updates to its coke oven regulations to public comment. Board of Health member Anthony Ferraro cast the sole dissenting vote. 

The vote came in the wake of 45-minutes of testimony both in support of and in opposition to sending the draft regulations out to public comment.

GASP has long encouraged the Allegheny County Health Department to tighten up its coke oven regulations to make them as protective of public health as possible and lauded the BOH vote.

“The regulations we have in place right now aren’t effectively combating fugitive emissions of air pollutants like hydrogen sulfide,” GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said following the vote. “We’re glad the process is moving along and look forward to submitting comments to help make the draft regulations as strong and protective of public health as possible. It is important that everyone, especially those most impacted by the air pollution have ample opportunity to weigh in and have their comments be part of the public record.”

ACHD officials have asked for an extended public comment period of 60 days. Generally, there is a 30-day public comment period.

For those who might be unfamiliar: ACHD’s proposed revisions to the coke oven gas regulations would:

  • 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 (DEP) regulations.
  • Remove specific inspection and observation methods.

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 reduce associated exceedances of the state standard.

“Let’s remember these regulations are so important because coke-making is a primary source of hydrogen sulfide in Allegheny County and U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works is the number-one emitter of H2S not only here, but in the whole state,” Filippini said.

So far in 2020 there have been 19 days during which H2S concentrations at ACHD’s Liberty monitor mathematically exceeded the state standard. 

Editor’s Note: Here’s the Post-Gazette report on the meeting.

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