Court Sides with US Steel for Reporting Pollution at Clairton
Court House News reported that Philadelphia based US Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas ruled after two fires at its steel plant released harmful pollutants, it was enough for US Steel to give Pennsylvania authorities a heads up as reporting on top of that would have been overkill. He wrote “Since US Steel’s emissions were governed by a Clean Air Act permit, that means they were ‘federally permitted’ under CERCLA and thus exempt from federal reporting. The act’s cooperative federalism left the response to the state. And US Steel remains subject to liability for its hazardous releases.”
US Circuit Judge David Porter concurred, as did US Circuit Judge L Felipe Restrepo
US Steel spokeswoman Ms Amanda Malkowski said “We respect the Third Circuit Court’s unanimous ruling that US Steel made the appropriate notifications under the law. Environmental stewardship is a core value at US Steel. Following the December 24, 2018, fire at our Clairton plant, we made prompt notifications as required by our operating permits and the Clean Air Act.”
The first fire occurred on Christmas Eve 2018, crippling air pollution controls at plant in Clairton in Pennsylvania, operated by the US Steel subsidiary Mon Valley Works and causing a three-month release of harmful emissions over the Pittsburgh suburb. Among the gasses released were Benzene, and hydrogen sulfide, which smells of rotten eggs, plus coke from the large ovens. Just three months after the plant got going again, however, there was another fire.
It is not disputed that US Steel promptly reported the incidents to local authorities as required by the Clean Air Act. Where the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker erred, according to a complaint filed by the Clean Air Council, was in failing to notify the National Response Center under the federal Superfund law known as CERCLA or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.