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U.S. Steel's Mon Valley facilities ordered to reduce emissions after continued violations

PITTSBURGH — An enforcement order has been issued against U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works facilities by the Allegheny County Health Department because of continued violations, officials announced Thursday.

The enforcement order for "continued Article XXI permit violations for daily sulfur dioxide emissions" follows a Dec. 24 fire at the Clairton Coke Works.

CLICK HERE to read the enforcement order.

U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works facilities -- against which the enforcement order was issued -- include the Clairton Coke Works, as well as the Edgar Thompson Plant and the Irvin Plant.

Per the order, U.S. Steel must reduce its use of coke oven gas and its daily SO2 emissions across all Mon Valley facilities. The facilities must do so through one of the following ways until repairs at the Clairton Coke Works are complete, or June 30, whichever comes later:

  • Reducing the volume of coal in each coke oven
  • Further extending coking times from 22 hours to 30-36 hours
  • Putting as many coke oven batteries as necessary under "hot idle" to achieve compliance with the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emission standard
  • Proposing its own plan to reduce SO2 emissions with demonstrated ability to comply with the daily permitted limit for its facilities

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U.S. Steel has to notify the Health Department of its decision within five days. It will also be required to provide weekly data demonstrating compliance, a news release said.

“Data provided to us since the exceedance at the North Braddock monitor showed that the amount of SO2 being emitted daily from these three facilities far exceeds what is allotted in the individual Title V operating permits. It also provided further evidence of elevated SO2 beyond what is being identified at our monitors,” Deputy Director of Environmental Health Jim Kelly said in a statement.


On Friday, U.S. Steel issued a statement on the Allegheny County Health Department enforcement order:

"Since the December 24th fire at our Clairton facility, our focus has been on minimizing the impact to the environment and community while rebuilding safely and quickly.  We initiated multiple actions to minimize environmental impacts, and we have welcomed and implemented multiple operational adjustments requested by the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) to help mitigate the environmental impact resulting from the fire-damaged equipment.

Despite the efforts by U. S. Steel to work cooperatively, the ACHD yesterday issued a unilateral Enforcement Order containing a number of requirements intended to take effect within one day of receipt of the Order. Upon receipt of the Order, we quickly reviewed its requirements to determine the steps necessary to comply.  Unfortunately, the Order included required actions and deadlines that would place the safety of our employees and local communities at risk.  We have begun making preparations to implement certain ordered actions to further extend coking times.  However, we cannot extend those times on the schedule set forth in the Order without jeopardizing the safety of workers and the community, and also negatively affecting the Clairton Plant's environmental compliance.  
We are committed to correcting the damage caused by the fire and completing equipment repairs within the next 8-9 weeks that will allow us to restart the environmental controls that will return our plant to compliance. We are disappointed the ACHD has issued another unilateral order rather than working to resolve environmental issues through communication and cooperation.  As a result, we are forced to raise our concerns by appealing this Order that places workers' safety at risk and would worsen environmental performance.  While this appeal was necessary, we welcome an opportunity to meet with the ACHD to resolve these issues and deadlines without protracted litigation.

Safety is a core value at U. S. Steel and has remained at the forefront of our repair and mitigation efforts. We wish to resolve these issues to ensure the safety of our employees and the community."