Testimony Regarding Clairton Coke Works Operating Permit

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January 12, 2024

US Steel Title V Operating Permit Public Hearing

Allegheny County Health Department January 10, 2024


My name is Jeff Nobers, executive director of Pittsburgh Works Together.

Pittsburgh Works is an alliance of corporate, civic, and organized labor leaders committed to an inclusive vision of economic progress that embraces and respects traditional industries as well as emerging ones, all while ensuring a sustainable environment.

We need all kinds of jobs for all kinds of workers if we’re going to continue to rebuild our regional economy and have a strong and diversified future.

Since 2021, Pittsburgh Works has published Clearing the Air, an annual analysis of the region’s air quality based on existing EPA data. Our findings are clear: The claim that the air in the Pittsburgh region is among the worst in the country is a myth that is not supported by the numbers. Rather, our air is typical of that found in big-city regions around the country — better than in some places, worse than others.

Our more recent report, Clearing the Air 4.0, shows the following:

  • The region’s annual average level of PM2.5 dropped by 9.6% in 2022, according to the annual analysis produced by the EPA.
  • The PM2.5 level at the Liberty air monitor dropped 7% in 2022 and has dropped 23.2% over the past decade.
  • Allegheny County has lower average PM2.5 levels than 40% of the urban core counties in the county’s 50 largest metropolitan regions.

Preliminary data for 2023 shows every air monitor in the county meets the Clean Air Act standards and the air is cleaner than at any time since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

That is the context in which this Title V Permit proposed for the Clairton Coke Works is being reconsidered. The Health Department originally issued this permit in 2022 and the EPA had no objection.

We are only here tonight for one reason: Because of subsequent complaints from environmental activists who want to see the elimination of all heavy industry here and elsewhere in the country despite their use of the very goods produced by those industries every day.

These activists have focused on the county’s greatest concentration of family-supporting union manufacturing jobs at a time when Allegheny County has lost more jobs over the past five years than any place in Pennsylvania. And while the national debate is how best to ensure the continued operation of US Steel’s facilities to support the U.S. economy and ensure national security, those activists would prefer to see the gates shuttered.

Among other concerns, we are disappointed to learn that the proposed permit includes nearly 100 new emissions limits. Per the Clean Air Act, the Title V process is not intended to create new emission limits. The Title V permit is a tool to put existing applicable requirements into one operating permit, not to establish new limits and requirements that are not otherwise required.

The Clean Air Act requires that permit conditions be both technically feasible and cost effective. This proposed Title V permit does not meet those legal requirements.

We reiterate our support for a healthy environment for the Pittsburgh region. That includes finding the proper balance that provides for economic opportunity for the region and the families that live here. We strongly encourage the Allegheny County Health Department to work in a more cooperative manner with all manufacturing and industrial firms in the county. That does not mean cutting corners or jeopardizing public health. It means applying the proper rules in a timely and appropriate fashion so the community does not discourage capital investment and the reduction of good-paying family-sustaining jobs. A healthy regional environment must include a viable manufacturing base and quality of life for the hardworking men and women who work in those industries. Thank you.

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Jeff Nobers | Executive Director | Jeff@pghworks.com
Ken Zapiniski | Director of Research and Public Policy | ken@pghworks.com
General Inquires: info@pghworks.com

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