NATIONAL NEWS

US Steel agrees to spend millions to settle lawsuit over air pollution violations after 2018 fire

Jan 29, 2024, 3:55 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2024, 1:16 pm

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — U.S. Steel has agreed to settle a lawsuit that accused the Pittsburgh-based company of violating federal clean air laws by operating plants without its desulfurization controls for more than three months, emitting clouds of sulfurous gas into surrounding towns.

The settlement with environmental groups Clean Air Council and PennEnvironment and the Allegheny County Health Department was filed in federal court Monday for a judge to review, the groups said.

PennEnvironment and the other plaintiffs accused the steel producer of more than 12,000 violations of its air pollution permits.

Under the settlement, U.S. Steel is agreeing to spend another $19.5 million in equipment upgrades and $5 million on local clean air efforts and programs. The settlement agreement says U.S. Steel already spent $17.5 million on improvements and upgrades to U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works plants after a 2018 Christmas Eve fire that damaged the pollution control equipment.

The environmental groups put the value of the settlement at $42 million.

The $5 million for clean air efforts and programs is one of the largest-ever penalties nationally in a citizen-enforced lawsuit under federal clean air laws, Clean Air Council and PennEnvironment said.

“This historic announcement should send a message to all illegal polluters who put the health and environment of Pittsburghers at risk,” David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, said at a news conference Monday. “We will not sit by while illegal air pollution rains down on nearby communities and the Pennsylvanians who live in them.”

U.S. Steel said it regretted the “accidental” emissions and that it strives to comply with environmental regulations.

“When we miss that mark, we will make changes so we can do better,” said Kurt Barshick, the company’s Mon Valley Works vice president, said in a statement.

The environmental groups sued in 2019, after a Christmas Eve fire at the Clairton coke works plant caused $40 million in damage.

The fire damaged pollution control equipment and led to repeated releases of sulfur dioxide, the lawsuit said. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless, pungent byproduct of fossil fuel combustion that can make it hard to breathe.

In the wake of the fire, Allegheny County warned residents to limit outdoor activities, with residents saying for weeks afterward that the air felt acidic, smelled like rotten eggs and was hard to breathe.

The fire knocked out pollution controls at its Mon Valley plants, but U.S. Steel continued to run them anyway, the groups said.

The lawsuit also cited repeated breakdowns at the Clairton plant, including one in 2019 in which the company reported a release of 525,000 pounds of coke oven gas from a pressure release valve.

U.S. Steel also must permanently close approximately 60 of the worst polluting coke ovens, the groups said. The ovens turn coal into coke, a raw ingredient in the steelmaking process.

___

This story was corrected Jan. 29 to show the number of alleged air pollution permit violations is more than 12,000, instead of more than 1,200. It was also updated Jan. 30 to correct the amount U.S. Steel is agreeing to spend to settle a pollution lawsuit. U.S. Steel is agreeing to spend a total of $24.5 million to settle the lawsuit, not $42 million.

National News

Fitness guru Richard Simmons died Saturday at age 76. (AP)...

MARK KENNEDY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

TV’s silly fitness guru Richard Simmons dies at 76

Richard Simmons, TV's court jester of physical fitness who built an empire by urging the overweight to exercise and eat better, has died.

40 minutes ago

Associated Press

Richard Simmons, a fitness guru who mixed laughs and sweat, dies at 76

NEW YORK (AP) — Richard Simmons, television’s hyperactive court jester of physical fitness who built a mini-empire in his trademark tank tops and short shorts by urging the overweight to exercise and eat better, died Saturday. He was 76. Los Angeles police and fire departments say they responded to a Los Angeles house where a […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., greets supporters at an election night party Nov. 8, 2022, at Loo...

Associated Press

Minnesota Republican Tayler Rahm drops out to clear path for Joe Teirab in competitive US House race

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Republicans got a straighter path to potential victory Saturday in what is expected to be Minnesota’s closest congressional race when GOP-endorsed candidate Tayler Rahm dropped out of a primary fight against the better-funded Joe Teirab, who already had tacit backing from key House leaders. Rahm, a political newcomer and defense attorney, said […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

New York’s first female fire commissioner says she’ll resign once a replacement is found

NEW YORK (AP) — The first female commissioner of the Fire Department of New York said Saturday that she plans to step down because it’s time to “pass the torch” after two years in the job. Laura Kavanagh didn’t say when she plans to resign, but she said in a statement that she plans to […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Then First lady Melania Trump speaks to a small group of supporters as President Donald Trum...

Associated Press

This year’s RNC speakers include VP hopefuls, GOP lawmakers and UFC’s CEO — but not Melania Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former first lady Melania Trump will attend the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee next week, making a rare political appearance. But unlike in years past, she is not expected to address the gathering where her husband, former President Donald Trump, will formally accept the Republican nomination. While in the White House, Melania […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Alec Baldwin thanks supporters in first public comments after early end to trial

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Alec Baldwin made his first public comments to thank his supporters Saturday after the stunning early end to his involuntary manslaughter trial. “There are too many people who have supported me to thank just now,” Baldwin said in a brief Instagram post that accompanied a photo of him sitting in […]

4 hours ago

US Steel agrees to spend millions to settle lawsuit over air pollution violations after 2018 fire