On Christmas Eve 2018, residents of Clairton, PA, woke up to a sooty haze and a strong sulfurous stench in the air. Earlier that morning, U.S. Steel Corporation’s sprawling Clairton Coke Works experienced a catastrophic fire in the building that houses housing equipment tasked with removing sulfur and other dangerous pollutants from coke oven gas, a carcinogenic byproduct of coal production at the facility. For the next 102 days, U.S. Steel continued to operate, generating untreated coke oven gas. The company illegally combusted this coke oven gas as fuel throughout the Coke Works and two nearby steel mills, and illegally burned it in open-air flares. As U.S. Steel spewed out roughly a month’s worth of sulfur dioxide every three days, along with hydrogen sulfide and harmful small particles, residents reported splitting headaches, uncontrollable asthma attacks, and difficulty breathing.

In April 2019, NELC filed a Clean Air Act suit on behalf of PennEnvironment and Clean Air Council in order to hold U.S. Steel accountable for avoidable violations that put public health at risk and compel the company to undertake the structural and operational upgrades needed to prevent another such catastrophe. In June 2019, just months after filing, a major fire again knocked out the pollution controls at Clairton. Shortly thereafter, the Allegheny County Health Department intervened in our suit as a co-plaintiff.

The case is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.