In the wake of the Clairton Coke Works fire, the state Senate and House Democratic Policy committees will hold a joint public hearing on ways to improve air quality, community notification procedures and emergency response.

The hearing is scheduled for noon on Thursday, February 7 at the Clairton Municipal Building, 551 Ravensburg Blvd, Clairton, Pa 15025.

The hearing is being held in Clairton at the request of state Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) and Representative Austin Davis (D-Allegheny). It was prompted by a December 24 fire at the Clairton Coke Works that resulted in emissions of high levels of sulfur dioxide and damage to the facility’s gas processing system.  

“We need to see to it that air quality standards are properly monitored, and that local emergency response and community notification procedures are accurate and timely,” Brewster said. “To accomplish this goal, we must bring together officials from U.S. Steel, the Allegheny County Department of Health, local governments and emergency responders to find workable solutions. I am committed to doing my part at the state level to meet this challenge.”

Davis added, “Improving the air quality in our communities is my top priority. I look forward to the testimony of all stakeholders. As we look to improve air quality it’s imperative that we look for effective ways to do so.”

The hearing will be jointly chaired by state Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh) and state Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster).

“Being raised in the shadow of the Bethlehem Steel plant, I am well aware of the seriousness of air quality issues and how community’s such as Clairton must balance an economic reliance on good industrial jobs against health and environmental issues,” Boscola said.

Sturla added, “I thank Representative Davis for bringing this important issue to the House Democratic Policy Committee’s attention. This joint public hearing will ensure all perspectives are heard as the legislature looks for effective ways to improve air quality.”

The hearing follows a January 22 public meeting in Clairton.  Brewster, Davis and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny) and Austin Davis (D-Allegheny) were also updated on January 25 by officials from the Allegheny County Health Department.

Expected testifiers include:

Panel from U.S. Steel Corporation:

  • Chris Masciantonio, Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy
  • Mike Rhoades, Plant Manager, Clairton Coke Works
  • Tishie Woodwell, General Manager, Environmental Affairs
  • Kurt Barshick, General Manager, Mon Valley Works

Panel from Allegheny County Health Department:

  • Dr. Karen Hacker, Director
  • Jim Kelly, Deputy Director for Environmental Health
  • Michael Parker, Solicitor
  • Dr. LuAnn Brink, Chief Epidemiologist

Panel from area unions:

  • Don Furko, President, United Steel Workers Local 1557
  • Jeff Nobers, Executive Director, Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania

Panel of health and environmental advocates:

  • Dr. Deborah Gentile, Physician, Pediatric Alliance
  • Rachel Filippini, Executive Director, Group Against Smog & Pollution
  • Matt Mehalik, Executive Director, Breathe Project

The hearing is open to the public and media coverage is welcome.