CLAIRTON (KDKA) — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman toured the U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works where a Christmas Eve fire raised concerns about its impact on local air quality.
“This is about finding out what the facts are and where things are at,” Fetterman told a press conference at the site.
Fetterman had a private tour — no media allowed — and praised U.S. Steel for its efforts to get repairs completed by mid-May.
“The repairs that they are working on 24/7 with union labor and union workers is going 24 hours a day,” said Fetterman.
WATCH: Lt. Gov. Fetterman Speaks At Clairton Coke Works —
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Environmentalists claim the fire harmed the ability to clean coke oven gas, resulting in more sulfur dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.
The Allegheny County Health Department says the Coke Works is not in compliance with clean air rules.
Fetterman, whose family lives across the street from U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson works, seemed to minimize that.
“There is no family in Allegheny County that lives closer with children — my own all under the age of 10 — closer to a U.S. Steel facility than myself,” Fetterman said. “Under new stringent air guidelines with respect to sulfur, there have been seven hour incidents — seven out of more than 1,300 hours — so just put that in perspective. So you have 7 out of 1,300 for a rate of less than one-half of one percent.”
A recent hearing by Mon Valley state lawmakers brought out both environmentalists and steelworkers.
“Despite having the strongest coke oven regulations in the entire country, Allegheny County is still out of compliance with the Clean Air Act,” Dr. Karen Hacker, the Allegheny County health director, told lawmakers on Feb. 7.
But U.S. Steel says it’s doing more than most.
“On average, $100 million per year [spent] just on environmental upgrades so the performance has been significantly improving,” Chris Masciantonio, with U.S. Steel, said. “The fire is a major setback.”
So good jobs versus clean environment?
Fetterman wants both, but notes, “This facility is critical to the union way of life here in this region. It’s critical to the region’s economy.”