BRADDOCK (KDKA) -- U.S. Steel has announced that it has canceled its investment project in the Mon Valley Works.
In 2019, U.S. Steel promised it would invest more than $1 billion for state-of-the-art technology, which would have included new sustainable endless casting and rolling.
Originally, the project was supposed to be completed sometime in 2022.
U.S. Steel said the stressors from the coronavirus pandemic and climate change influenced their decision. With the pandemic, U.S. Steel alleges that permit delays from the Allegheny County Health Department slowed down progress with construction significantly.
"We commissioned the manufacturing of the equipment and began site preparations," President and CEO David Burritt wrote in a letter.
"However, with over $170 million invested and equipment being stored in Pittsburgh-area warehouses, we're still only at the beginning stages of project execution. By contrast, during this same time period, a competing steel manufacturer in another state announced a new steel mill and will be ready to make steel this year."
"At the onset of the pandemic, U. S. Steel agreed with the need for the County Health Department to temporarily delay its permitting process for the Mon Valley Works, but this delay allowed for a consequential window of time during which we expanded our understanding of steelmaking's future in a rapidly decarbonizing world," he added.
Earlier this month, U.S. Steel committed to producing no carbon emissions by 2050. U.S. Steel has also stated they will still be making steel in the Mon Valley.
In November of 2020, Burritt hinted that the Mon Valley project might not be completed and that the investment "could go somewhere else."
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he was "blindsided" by U.S. Steel's decision. He said he has supported the project since day one, and he's disappointed the company isn't moving forward with it.
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"This community got blindsided because this is a good project. We were hoping for the improvement of jobs and the improvement of air quality," Fitzgerald said.
The decision to scrap the project is a devastating blow to the future of steelmaking in our region, according to Lt. Governor and former Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.
"My heart is broken for the union men and women. This would have guaranteed steelmaking in this valley for a generation when my children are my age," Fetterman said.
Fetterman isn't blaming U.S. Steel. He said the project lacked the solid support of elected officials in the region and faced constant blowback from environmentalists, which made U.S. Steel look for a fresh start down south.
Environmentalists like Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action said the move was one in a series of broken promises by U.S. Steel to control emissions. But he applauded the company's decision to shut down three polluting coke batteries at Clairton in the next two years.
"We certainly hope U.S. Steel will keep that promise to close those batteries over the next couple of years," Arnowitt said.
Trade Union head Tom Melcher also took aim at the environmental lobby, elected officials and the Allegheny County Health Department, which he said was slow in approving permits for the project.
"I believe the permits should have been given to them right away. What can we do to the permits? Let's get this job going," he said.
The Allegheny County Health Department is expressing disappointment that it is being cited as a reason for the project not going forward. The department said it moved as expeditiously as possible with the permitting project.
Fitzgerald said the Allegheny County Health Department never slowed down the permit process. He said U.S. Steel put a pause on the project in April 2020 and never re-activated it.
"At no time during this whole two-year period was there any delay on behalf of the health department. They continued to work diligently on this," Fitzgerald said.
Is this the beginning of the end for U.S. Steel in the region?
"I hope not. They say not but I hope we can take them at their word. I hope this keeps the plants moving, keeps these workers working," Fitzgerald said.
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