PITTSBURGH—NELC attorneys recently filed a motion in federal court on behalf of PennEnvironment and Clean Air Council, arguing that U.S. Steel violated the Clean Air Act (CAA) more than 12,000 times at its three Pittsburgh-area plants, including Clairton Coke Works, the largest coke oven facility in North America. The groups are asking the court to hold U.S. Steel accountable for violations of the CAA occurring after the company’s pollution controls were offline for more than 100 days, from Christmas Eve 2018 until the following spring, and then again that June
This summer, the environmental groups filed a motion for “summary judgment,” seeking a ruling before trial that U.S. Steel committed more than 12,000 separate violations of numerous permit requirements that are designed to protect public health. U.S. Steel simultaneously filed its own motion for summary judgment, asking the court to rule before trial that an outside monitor is not needed to overhaul operations at the company’s facilities.
If U.S. Steel prevails in these motions, the suit will progress to an extensive trial where all parties will put in evidence and argue their respective cases. On the other hand, if the environmental groups prevail in these motions, the case will still progress to a trial, but that trial will be limited to deciding what remedy is appropriate in light of the violations that occurred. The groups believe that the appropriate remedy in this case includes payment of a substantial civil penalty and appointment of an outside monitor to oversee environmental compliance at the company.
Going into the summary judgment stage, the environmental groups believe that the evidence strongly supports their position. “The proof is in the pudding—and in this case, the pudding is U.S. Steel’s own official statements and monitoring records. These documents prove the company violated its CAA permits many thousands of times when it decided to run its plants without essential pollution controls required by its permits,” said Ashleigh Deemer, the deputy director for PennEnvironment.
Co-plaintiff Allegheny County Health Authority is also seeking summary judgment on these violations.
The parties will all submit one last set of briefs to the court making their final written arguments in support of their respective motions. The parties will then make oral arguments at a hearing before the court. After the judge issues his opinion on the various motions, the parties will begin preparing for trial.