US Steel Project Cancelation Means Diminished Future for Region

April 30, 2021 | Pittsburgh Works Together

Pittsburgh – U.S. Steel’s decision to cancel a nearly $1.5 billion rolling mill and co-generation plant at its Mon Valley works will cost an estimated 1,000 high-paying construction jobs and signals a diminished future for steelmaking in the Pittsburgh region.

That is the assessment of Pittsburgh Works Together, a union-business alliance that advocates for a mix of traditional and new economy industries. The company also plans to shutter three coke batteries at the Clairton Plant over the next two years with job losses through natural attrition that will not be replaced.

U.S. Steel announced the project’s cancelation during its first quarter earnings report. The Mon Valley complex includes the Irvin Works in West Mifflin, the Edgar Thompson plant in Braddock, the Clairton Coke works in Clairton and Fairless Hills in the Philadelphia area. Combined employment is more than 3,000 people.

The decision to cancel the Mon Valley upgrade comes after a two-year wait for the Allegheny County Health Department to grant permits for work to get under way. Pittsburgh Works also pointed to a lack of support for the project from elected officials in the region.

The group noted that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman was the sole local official who openly promoted the reinvestment program, which would have put new steelmaking technology in the Edgar Thompson works in his hometown of Braddock.

“Along with a constant drumbeat of opposition from so-called environmental groups, the broad failure of local officials to rally around this massive reinvestment in the last of steelmaking in the Mon Valley reinforces the perception that the region and Pennsylvania are openly hostile to job-creators,” said Jeff Nobers, executive director of Pittsburgh Works.

“The continuous caster was intended to allow the Mon Valley Works to manufacture lighter stronger steel intended for the auto industry which in turn would have resulted in more efficient cars with lower emissions,” Nobers added. “Now that won't happen here.”

Nobers noted that, as U.S. Steel was awaiting a permit, the Allegheny County Health Department drafted and held public hearings on new regulations targeted at the Clairton coke making facility.

“This was not an absence of opportunity by the Health Department it was clearly an unwillingness to act,” Nobers said. "We had a window of opportunity and it’s absurd that we as a region have allowed that window to be slammed shut."

Nobers said years of attacks by environmental groups likely played a significant role in both the slow permitting process and the decision to abandon the project.

“At a certain point, a company will simply give up on a place and find a location where they will not be under constant attack by groups that rely on scare tactics to sustain themselves and where elected and business leaders welcome them,” Nobers said.

The project called for four-million man-hours of work on construction, a figure that breaks down into at least 1,000 construction jobs. Additionally, government job multipliers suggest that every 100 construction jobs spin off 177 indirect jobs.

You can read the full statement here:

Pittsburgh Works Together, a coalition of corporations, labor unions, business, community, and workforce development leaders which promotes a diverse and balanced economy, today issued the following statement regarding U.S. Steel’s announcement that it has withdrawn plans for a $1.5 billion investment in its Mon Valley Works:

U.S. Steel’s decision to cancel its $1.5 billion investment in a new state of the art rolling mill at the Edgar Thompson plant and other upgrades at Mon Valley Works facilities is a direct result of a lack of leadership from elected officials and business growth organizations that should support and embrace growing our workforce opportunities yet are politically afraid to take a stand against the factually suspect attacks by self-appointed environmental groups, their primary foundation funder – the Heinz Endowments - and an activist health department. Other than Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, our political leadership in the region failed the hard-working families here and could not find the courage to get behind this project and confront these attacks.

Two years after the company announced plans for this important investment, the Allegheny County Health Department has yet to provide the permits needed to proceed. The result, the elimination of four-million-man hours of construction – approximately 1,000 union trades construction jobs - and putting in peril the jobs of 3,000 members of the United Steelworkers Union and hundreds more at the Pittsburgh headquarters. Add to these the thousands of downstream jobs that could be eliminated or curtailed and this is an economic, regulatory, and political folly of epic proportions.

Most ironically, the very environmental activists, regulators and politicians who demand clean air are the very people who have derailed a project that would have provided emission reductions of up to 60 percent and many other performance improvements.

At a time when our unemployment rate stands at 7.5 percent every job is of immense value. As we recover from the pandemic, we should be working together to grow the region into the diverse economic engine it could be but instead we see an elitist ideological philosophy held by a well-funded few lead the misdirection of our region and further underscore the well held belief that our region and state are hostile to the manufacturing, energy, and utility industries, among others.”

Jeff Nobers - Pittsburgh Works - jeff@pghworks.com - 412-977-1263

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