Watch CBS News

What does the closure of battery 15 mean for the Mon Valley?

U.S. Steel reacts to Battery No. 15's shutdown
U.S. Steel reacts to Battery No. 15's shutdown 03:21

CLAIRTON, Pa. (KDKA) -- On the heels of the permanent closure of a significant portion of the Mon Valley Works' Clairton plant due to a legal settlement, U.S. Steel is responding to claims that it hasn't invested enough in the plant to modernize it.

The claims come from environmental advocates who say steel could continue to be produced in the Mon Valley, just in a way that has a far smaller impact on the environment.

One of those advocates is Qiyam Ansari, who has asthma he says as a result of living near the plant. He is board member at the nonprofit Clean Air Now, which supplies free air filters to people in the Mon Valley. 

U.S. Steel on May 30 filled paperwork which shows battery 15, which produced 10% of the plant's steel-making coke and was one of the most-polluting parts of the plant, will remain closed for good after sitting offline since 2019, according to a news release from the group Penn Environment.

"As someone who lives in the valley I think it's a good thing they shut it down," Ansari said, explaining his feelings are nuanced. 

"I think it's a little sad they are shutting it down permanently, I think it echoes sentiments of not wanting to invest in the plant," Ansari said, explaining he was concerned about the potential for job losses.

Adding to the concern, former Local 1557 Steelworkers union president Don Furko said the closure of one additional battery at Clairton could lead to job losses.

U.S. Steel disagrees with the assessment they aren't doing enough to modernize the plant.

A spokesperson for U.S. Steel told KDKA-TV they have invested 750 million into their Mon Valley operations in the past 5 years.

At the Clairton plant specifically, U.S. Steel says it has invested $17.5 million in process improvements and upgrades that were not required by their legal settlement with the Allegheny County Health Department and environmental groups. In addition, U.S. Steel spends more than $100 million a year on environmental compliance. 

"At U.S. Steel, there are more than three thousand hardworking men and women who strive every day to make essential steel in a way that complies with environmental regulations," a press release the U.S. Steel representative says.

Ansari said more should be done to modernize the Clairton Works so they pollute less, while keeping jobs in the Mon Valley.  He said that could include switching to the significantly cleaner electric arc furnaces, which the company has at their Arkansas facility. 

"I think that would be great, I think that is the best thing we could hope for, if we did that we would have a brand new plant, it would guarantee there would be jobs here," Ansari said. 

KDKA-TV asked U.S. Steel about that potential and they referred us to their earlier statement about the investments they have made in the Mon Valley.

Some people who work and live near the plant told KDKA-TV they don't think U.S. Steel has the money to build a brand new plant. Ansari thinks they should. 

"They make a lot of money, I think they can afford to invest in the place that got them started, that got them their name, and without those investments, we're not going to see these jobs stay here," Ansari said. 

The lawsuit which led to the settlement stems from the 2018 fire at the plant which led to violations of air pollution limits. The settlement will allow U.S. Steel to move forward with promised updates to their facilities, and their commitment to communities in the Mon Valley, a press release from U.S. Steel said. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.