US Metal Cancels $ 1 Billion Upgrades For Native Amenities; plans to close down high-emission batteries at Clairton Coke Works | Information | Pittsburgh

click to enlarge

The US Steel Corporation is canceling its $ 1 billion upgrades to its Mon Valley Works facilities, including Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, and Clairton Coke Works in Clairton. While the cancellation is likely to result in some job losses in the area, it will also reduce harmful air pollution in the Mon Valley and beyond.

The upgrades announced in May 2019 included a casting and rolling plant and a combined heat and power plant. After several delays due to COVID in 2020, which increased upgrade costs to a promised $ 1.5 billion, US Steel postponed the start date of these upgrades to the fourth quarter of 2022. However, today the company announced that these plans are in full be discarded.

In addition to canceling these updates, US Steel plans to keep batteries one through three at Clairton Coke Works permanently idle through the first quarter of 2023. Batteries one to three are the oldest at Coke Works and can cause two to three times more emissions than the rest of the facility by environmental group.

Toxic air pollution contributes to high cancer risk, according to the EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment, and Clairton Coke Works is responsible for many of the airborne carcinogens in the area. Asthma rates among children in Clairton are three times higher than in the rest of the county.

“For too long, US Steel has been trying to protect the environment and causing dangerous levels of harmful air pollution,” said Zachary Barber, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center advocate for clean air. “Closing these batteries is a necessary and long overdue step to reduce this damage and purify the air in our region.”

Clairton Coke Works received a $ 1 million fine from the Allegheny County Health Department in 2019 and another $ 383,450 fine in March 2021. A University of Pittsburgh study this week also confirmed that the fire at the Coke Works was in December 2018, which shattered pollution controls, increased asthma exacerbations for local residents.

David Burritt, President and CEO of US Steel, cites the company’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 as a motivation to abandon the plan upgrades. As part of that goal, US Steel in Arkansas will shift to electric arc furnaces like Big River Steel, of which US Steel bought a minority stake in 2019.

There are currently around 130 full-time employees employed in the three Clairton Coke Works batteries, which operate on idle. US Steel plans to avoid layoffs by reducing the workforce through retirements and reassignments. The closings will result in the loss of hundreds of potential construction jobs for the region, according to Pittsburgh Works Together, a partnership made up mostly of fossil fuel companies and the unions that represent their workers.

“I am deeply disappointed that the company broke its promise to Mon Valley and its own employees by abandoning a plan that would have made Mon Valley Works the first of its kind, cleaner air for our community and good jobs would have made this area a success for decades, ”says Austin Davis (D-Mckeesport), a member of the Clairton Coke Works district. “I believe that we can create family-friendly jobs and a clean environment.”

From March 30th to April 7th, Mon Valley was one of the top 10 worst places for air quality in America. Proponents like Barber have long criticized the dangerous emissions from Clairton Coke Works, and PennEnvironment had previously called for batteries to be taken offline when air quality is poor.

“While we’re excited about this development, we still need to remain vigilant – especially given US Steel’s decades of history of violations and broken promises,” said Barber. “Local leaders need to keep working to reduce industrial pollution to ensure everyone has clean air to breathe every day of the year.”

And it is possible that these upgrade cancellations will have a long-term impact on the future of US Steel in the Mon Valley and Pittsburgh area. As noted by Pittsburgh University economist Chris Briem on Twitter, the Clairton Coke Works and Edgar Thompson Works are in a bleak state with no need to update these legacy facilities.

So that I’m not too subtle (not, but). Clairton has no future without massive reinvestment. Without Clairton, there is likely no future for the ET Works in Braddock. If West Mifflin were the only major US steel mill in the region, will the headquarters stay here?

– 𝗰𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗺 (@chrisbriem) April 30, 2021

Comments are closed.