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U.S., Allegheny Co. Settle Air Pollution Case Against Shenango

Release Date: 3/3/2000
Contact Information: David Sternberg (215) 814-5548

David Sternberg, 215-814-5548

PITTSBURGH - The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and Allegheny County, Pa., today settled a Clean Air Act lawsuit against Shenango Inc. involving emissions from the company’s Neville Island coke manufacturing plant near Pittsburgh.

The company will pay a $2.1 million penalty under the agreement filed today in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. The settlement also requires Shenango to implement a comprehensive program to re-engineer and maintain its desulfurization plant and undertake a program to eliminate violations of opacity (visible emissions) standards.

"This settlement appropriately penalizes Shenango for past violations, and requires the company to undertake substantial corrective action. These requirements will ensure that emissions from the plant are within legal limits that are protective of human health and the environment," said EPA Regional Administrator Bradley M. Campbell.

In September 1999, the Justice Department, on behalf of the EPA, and Allegheny County brought action against Shenango, charging that the company violated desulfurization and visible emission standards under the federal Clean Air Act. The complaint asserted that Shenango violated provisions of a 1993 settlement that had sought to resolve these violations.

The federal government first sued Shenango in 1980, alleging that the Terre Haute, Ind.-based company violated the Clean Air Act at its Neville Island plant, where it manufactures coke used as fuel in blast furnaces. These charges were settled in a consent decree, but the company failed on a number of occasions to meet some of the legally enforceable requirements in the decree. In 1993, the parties agreed to another settlement that addressed these continuing emissions violations at Shenango’s coke facility.

The 1993 decree directed Shenango to either replace some of its desulfurization system or to refurbish it. Also in the 1993 order, the parties agreed that Shenango could be required to pay a penalty for each time it violated the desulfurization standard. Although Shenango did install new desulfurization equipment, the company was frequently unable to get the equipment to work. As a result, sulfur compounds were insufficiently removed from coke oven gas and released into the air.

Sulfur compounds in the air have been found to aggravate respiratory problems, particularly in people who suffer from asthma and chronic bronchitis. The health effects of sulfur dioxide are worsened when sulfur dioxide combines with particles and/or moisture in the air. This is known as a synergistic effect because the combination results in an effect greater than would be caused by the cumulative effect of these individual substances.

Besides having a detrimental effect on human health, sulfur compounds also destroy vegetation. Gaseous sulfur-containing plumes carried by upper air streams are also the primary precursor of acid rain which can damage lakes, aquatic life, plant life and property.

The settlement lodged today replaces the earlier settlements reached by the parties and focuses on desulfurization violations and emissions from Shenango’s combustion stack. Under the agreement, Shenango must undertake a new program designed to ensure that it meets standards for visible emissions from the combustion stack. The company must monitor records daily and is required to immediately fix any conditions causing it to exceed the standard.

The settlement also requires the company to complete an ongoing program of fixing its desulfurization system, evaluating each component. Under the program, Shenango will install at least five new pieces of equipment and overhaul another four parts of the system.