Allegheny County Council on Tuesday endorsed enforcement actions taken by the county health department to curb air pollution at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock and Clairton Coke Works in Clairton.
The endorsement was intended to support the Allegheny County Health Department in its efforts to maintain the standards of the federal Clean Air Act as well as residents “in their fight for cleaner, healthier and more breathable air,” said District 3 Council member Anita Prizio, D-O’Hara, who sponsored the endorsement.
In July, Prizio accepted a petition signed by 6,000 Allegheny County residents across 37 ZIP Codes demanding clean air. She shared that petition, organized by the environmental group PennEnvironment, with county council and the health department last month.
All 15 members of council were present and voted unanimously in favor of the endorsement.
The endorsement vote does not require U.S. Steel nor the Allegheny County Health Department to take any new actions. Rather, it’s a way for council to show support for the health department’s “health-based air quality regulatory actions that aim to bring U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant and Clairton Coke Works facilities into compliance for the good of public health,” according to the text of the endorsement.
“This council holds that the proposition that the advancement and improvement of economic growth and environmental health are at odds is a false dichotomy, and this council firmly and resolutely believes the proper governmental bodies must advance solutions to the benefit of all residents and workers involved because those parties are one and the same,” the text of the endorsement said.
Concerns about air quality intensified this year after two fires at the Clairton Coke Works facility knocked pollution controls offline.
Penalties related to the first fire, in December 2018, will potentially be addressed through a federal lawsuit brought by PennEnvironment, Clean Air Council and the health department.
The health department in June reached an unrelated draft settlement agreement with U.S. Steel over 2018 and early 2019 air pollution violations at the Clairton Coke Works.
The draft settlement requires U.S. Steel to pay $2.7 million in fines and to upgrade equipment to reduce future emissions. Public comment on the draft settlement was held in July and is currently being reviewed by the health department.