ArcelorMittal agrees to pay $1.5M in coke plant lawsuit

Written by Marc Levy/Associated Press | Dec 20, 2017 2:06 PM

(Harrisburg) -- A subsidiary of European steel giant ArcelorMittal is agreeing to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit over allegations that its western Pennsylvania coke plant had showered the area with soot and other pollutants almost daily, according to a proposed agreement filed Wednesday in Pittsburgh's federal court.

The environmental advocacy group that sued, Philadelphia-based PennEnvironment, said it believes the penalty is the largest secured by a citizen lawsuit in Pennsylvania history under the federal Clean Air Act.

Federal and state officials, as well as representatives of ArcelorMittal and PennEnvironment, signed the 108-page proposed agreement.

As part of the agreement, ArcelorMittal also agreed to implement air pollution controls that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated would cost $2 million. The proposed agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and must receive a judge's approval.

PennEnvironment sued in 2015, saying the plant in Monessen, about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Monongahela River, had committed a variety of environmental violations since reopening in 2014 after more than four years of being idle.

Those include operating the plant for extended periods while a key air pollution control device wasn't functioning and more than 200 violations of pollution limits for hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and soot. Coke is a form of baked coal that steelmakers use in blast furnace to turn molten iron into steel.

According to the lawsuit, slightly more than 6,000 people live within a mile of the plant and more than 31,000 within three miles of it.

ArcelorMittal last year spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle a separate lawsuit filed by area residents complaining of arsenic and coal dust falling on their properties and a pervasive rotten egg-smell that prevented them from being outdoors and that even seeped into their homes.

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