U.S. Steel Agrees to $42 Million Settlement for Violating Federal Clean Air Laws

HARRISBURG, Pa. – U.S. Steel has reached a settlement in a lawsuit that accused the company of violating federal clean air laws. The lawsuit, filed by environmental groups Clean Air Council, PennEnvironment, and the Allegheny County Health Department, alleged that the Pittsburgh-based company operated plants without desulfurization controls for over three months, resulting in the release of sulfurous gas into nearby towns.

The settlement, which is now being reviewed by a federal judge, includes provisions for $37 million worth of improvements to U.S. Steel’s pollution control and plant reliability systems at its Mon Valley Works plants. Additionally, the company has agreed to pay a $5 million penalty to fund clean air efforts. This penalty is notable as it represents one of the largest fines ever imposed in a citizen-enforced lawsuit under federal clean air laws.

David Masur, the executive director of PennEnvironment, hailed the settlement as a historic announcement that would send a message to other illegal polluters who endanger the health and environment of Pittsburgh residents. Masur emphasized that they would not tolerate illegal air pollution affecting nearby communities.

U.S. Steel expressed regret for the accidental emissions and stated its commitment to comply with environmental regulations. Kurt Barshick, the company’s Mon Valley Works vice president, added that they would make necessary changes to improve their compliance in the future.

The lawsuit was initiated in 2019 after a fire at U.S. Steel’s Clairton coke works plant caused considerable damage. The fire disrupted pollution control equipment and led to frequent releases of sulfur dioxide, a harmful byproduct of fossil fuel combustion that can impede breathing. Following the incident, Allegheny County issued warnings advising residents to limit outdoor activities due to the poor air quality.

Despite the fire’s impact on pollution controls, U.S. Steel continued operating its Mon Valley plants. The lawsuit also highlighted other breakdowns at the Clairton plant, including an incident in 2019 where 525,000 pounds of coke oven gas were released through a pressure release valve. As part of the settlement, U.S. Steel is required to permanently close approximately 60 of the most polluting coke ovens at the facility.

The settlement represents a step towards holding industrial polluters accountable for their actions. It also underscores the importance of adherence to environmental regulations in safeguarding the health and well-being of local communities.