ArcelorMittal Agrees to $1.5 Million Settlement For Clean Air Violations
PennEnvironment sued a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal alleging the steel company violated provisions of the federal Clean Air Act. PennEnvironment, an environmental advocacy group, sue in 2015, claiming ArcelorMittal’s coke plant in Monessen, Pennsylvania, had undermined requirements related to soot and other pollutants on a daily basis since reopening in 2014 after being inactive for more than four years. ArcelorMittal has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle the lawsuit.
“Ever since the company’s idled, decades-old facility restarted in April 2014, individuals and homes have been showered with soot and acidic gases that also have noxious odors. Residents have had their quality of life diminished, have had to endure these odors and soot, and have had to fear for their health,” PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur said after announcing the settlement. PennEnvironment worked with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Environmental Protection and attorneys from Pittsburgh and the Boston-based National Environmental Law Center to negotiate with ArcelorMittal.
In a separate statement, the Department of Environmental Protection noted it had investigated and documented more than 120 violations at the plant before joining the parties in their negotiations. “Citizen engagement, coupled with inspections and enforcement at the agency level, is key to effective oversight that fosters real improvements to air quality,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
In addition to the settlement amount, ArcelorMittal has also agreed to implement air pollution controls moving forward. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated this initiative would cost around $2 million. The settlement must receive a judge’s approval and is also subject to a 30-day public comment period.
Some of the violations mentioned in PennEnvironment’s lawsuit included the coke plant’s continued operation despite a key air pollution control device not functioning properly and more than 200 violations of pollution limits for hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and soot. According to the lawsuit, roughly 6,000 people live within a mile of the plant and more than 31,000 within three miles. These residents were at danger of exposure and able to notice its effects.
A separate lawsuit was settled by ArcelorMittal last year. That one had been brought about by residents complaining of arsenic and coal dust falling on their properties, as well as a distinct rotten egg-smell that prevented them from being outdoors. Some said they couldn’t even get away from it inside their homes.
“There were multiple times I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would be unable to breathe,” Donora resident Viktoryia Maroz said. “I would shut off the A/C; I would shut the windows; nothing worked. You feel like you’re trapped in your own house.”
ArcelorMittal admitted in a statement that restarting the coke plant was challenging and its environmental performance during that period was “unacceptable.” The company added, “Since then, ArcelorMittal Monessen has been operating under new leadership and working diligently to improve the facility’s performance through a series of investments and actions. Over the last two years, the facility has been on a path of continuous improvement, and we are committed to achieving and maintaining full compliance with all environmental permits.”