4 groups to sue ATI over Harrison air pollution issues
Four environmental groups announced Thursday they plan to sue Allegheny Technologies Inc. for air pollution coming from its steel mill in Harrison.
The groups — the Clean Air Council, Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), Penn-Environment and Environmental Integrity Project — held a telephone press conference about what they describe as a major source of air pollution near Pittsburgh.
The federal Clean Air Act allows citizens to sue polluters, but they must serve notice at least 60 days in advance, which is what the environmental groups did Thursday.
The upcoming lawsuit centers on emissions from two electric arc furnaces that are used in the production of ATI’s specialty steel products in the older section of the Harrison steel mill.
GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said the company’s electric arc furnaces have been breaking air pollution laws for 15 years, and “we’ve all been breathing their illegal emissions.”
The two furnaces exceed the legal limits for nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, soot and carbon monoxide, according to the groups.
Those pollutants worsen smog and increase the risk of heart attacks, lung disease and asthma, they said.
Emissions ‘important’ if you live nearby
However, ATI is currently not violating any federal clean air standards, according to the Allegheny County Health Department.
The arc furnaces aren’t the biggest air pollution emitter at the ATI plant, according to Jim Kelly, acting deputy director for the health department’s environmental health bureau.
“A power plant emits thousands of tons of pollution per year, where these furnaces are in the tens of tons,” he said.
The ATI plant is definitely a source of pollution, according to Kelly.
“It’s not huge, but it is important especially if you live in the communities near it.”
The arc furnace limits were set by the Alle-gheny Health Department in 2002 when they were installed as new equipment.
“There are no predetermined emission standards, so you have to guess,” Kelly said. “We made the limits too stringent.”
So the emission limits were revised upward for a new comprehensive permit known as a Title V permit, which codifies previous air emission permits for the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
That increase in pollution limits in the new permit is what caused the environmental groups to sue the company, according to Patton Dycus, a senior attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project.
ATI declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the company is working with the Allegheny County Health Department on the new permit, which takes into account the many changes at the plant in at least the last decade, ATI spokesman Dan Greenfield said.
ATI replaced four older furnaces with the new arc furnaces in the early 2000s, according to Greenfield.
“The big picture is we invested in two new arc furnaces, closed the Natrona melt shop and we replaced a 50-year-old rolling mill,” he said.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, email@example.com or via Twitter .