Environmental Groups Win EPA’s Objection to U.S. Steel Clairton’s Air Pollution Permit
Environmental Protection Agency sides with Environmental Integrity Project, PennFuture, Clean Air Council, and Group Against Smog and Pollution and objects to U.S Steel Clairton’s Title V permit as it was not in compliance with the Clean Air Act.
In a move that will help protect Mon Valley residents from the emission of harmful air pollutants, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sided with environmental groups by issuing an order objecting to an air quality permit issued to U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works by the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) in November 2022 on the basis that it was not in compliance with the Clean Air Act.
In March, environmental groups submitted two petitions to the EPA requesting it object to the Title V Air Quality permit granted to U.S. Steel Clairton by the ACHD. In the petition from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), PennFuture, and Clean Air Council, the groups argued that the Title V permit did not include monitoring and testing requirements sufficient to assure compliance with multiple air quality emissions limitations for multiple emissions sources.
The petition from the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) argued that the Title V permit failed to include a compliance schedule which is required by the Clean Air Act when a facility is out of compliance with emission standards at the time of the permit issuance.
EIP, PennFuture, and Clean Air Council had sent a notice of intent to sue EPA on July 11 for EPA’s failure to take action on their March petition to object to the permit, and EIP filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of these three groups on Sept. 13.
On Sept. 18, the EPA issued an order granting almost all of the petitioners’ claims related to testing, monitoring, and reporting requirements and GASP’s claim regarding a compliance schedule, objecting to the Clairton Title V permit on those grounds.
In its order, EPA requires ACHD to revise the permit and/or permit record in accordance with its decision.
The U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works is the largest coke plant in North America and a significant source of air pollution in Allegheny County. It also has a history of noncompliance with environmental regulations. Pollutants of concern emitted by the facility include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and several hazardous air pollutants, including benzene.
“This is a long-overdue win for local residents, who can see that environmental groups and now EPA are stepping up to stop polluters like U.S. Steel from being able to continue operating with lax permits,” said Lisa Hallowell, senior attorney with EIP. “We hope ACHD acts quickly to make the changes to Clairton’s permit so U.S. Steel can be held accountable to air pollution laws.”
“EPA’s objection to this Title V permit will require ACHD to ensure that the permit has air quality monitoring and testing requirements sufficient to demonstrate that U.S. Steel Clairton operates in compliance with its emission limits,” said Angela Kilbert, senior attorney for PennFuture. “Air quality issues are an ongoing public health problem in Allegheny County and ensuring that industry polluters are operating within their permit limits is critical to protecting our health and environment.”
“For far too long, Allegheny County residents have deserved clean air but been denied it,”said Joseph Otis Minott, executive director and chief counsel of Clean Air Council. “We are grateful to EPA for granting these petitions to minimize harmful industrial pollution.”
“We’re pleased that EPA granted our petition and agreed that ACHD must develop a compliance schedule for its Clairton Coke Works facility and we hope the measures required by that compliance schedule finally bring the facility into compliance with the Clean Air Act,” said John Baillie, senior attorney at GASP. “More than anything we hope the end result is improved air quality for the Mon Valley and beyond – residents have suffered long enough from emissions issues and air pollution events at that plant. We’re glad EPA agrees that enough is enough.”
This order is a win against an inadequate, unprotective, and unlawful Title V permit and represents another critical step in the fight against harmful emissions from major polluters in Allegheny County.
Clean Air Council is an environmental health advocacy organization fighting for everyone’s right to a healthy environment. Protecting people’s health from the harmful impacts of pollution has always been the Council’s primary goal.
Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment.
Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) non-profit in Southwestern Pennsylvania working for a healthy, sustainable environment. Founded in 1969, GASP has been a diligent watchdog, educator, litigator, and policy-maker on many environmental issues, with a focus on air quality in the Pittsburgh region.
PennFuture is a member-supported, statewide environmental advocacy nonprofit and watchdog fighting against potential threats to PA’s clean air, pure water, and healthy climate. Since 1998, PennFuture has combined legislative advocacy and legal enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels, educational outreach, and civic engagement support for just and equitable environmental outcomes that improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. PennFuture has stood at the forefront of major environmental milestones in Pennsylvania as a bold and vigilant defender of communities against pollution and environmentally harmful policies.