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County getting 2 coke plant proposals

Thursday, July 09, 1998

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Allegheny County is considering not one, but two, new coking plant proposals.

But don't look for the coke ovens to start baking anytime soon. Both are very preliminary and could still be built elsewhere.

LTV last week filed a construction and operating permit application with the county Health Department for a six battery, 366-oven non-recovery coke plant in Hazelwood, where it closed an 81-year-old coking facility in February.

And Shenango Steel Co. has started discussions with the Health Department about permitting for a new coke "briquetting" operation on Neville Island that would use coal mining waste "fines" from West Virginia coal mines.

According to the application, LTV's new coking operation, which would be built and operated by Sun Oil's Sun Coke Co. for LTV, would employ 200, compared to the 750 workers at the old coke works.

It would produce 1.94 million tons of coke a year. The old coke plant, which ran afoul of federal Clean Air Act regulations, produced 1.3 million tons a year.

The application, accompanied by an $1,800 check, doesn't mean that LTV has decided on Hazelwood as the site for a new coking operation.

"LTV continues to explore other sites but can't discuss them at this time," said Deb Kavulich, an LTV spokeswoman. She said the permit application follows through on a company commitment to determine if construction of a new coke plant was feasible in Hazelwood.

The company informed the county that there was at least one other unnamed site, in Ohio, it was considering.

LTV has asked the county to let it know by Sept. 1 if air quality regulations can be made less restrictive to accommodate the processes that will be used by a new, non-recovery coke facility.

Roger Westman, Health Department division manager for air quality, said the company believes that county emissions standards designed for traditional top-loading coke ovens don't fit the proposed horizontal ovens.

Westman said Sun wants to start construction in July 1999. The new facility would take 18 months to build.

The new coke plant Shenango is considering for either Neville Island or an unspecified West Virginia location is dependent on a merger between the steelmaker and Anteaus Energy, the American subsidiary of Australia-based Greenfields Energy Corp.

"One benefit of this operation would be cleaning up the environment in West Virginia, because it uses coal wastes now sitting in tailings ponds," Westman said.

Shenango has signed a letter of intent with Anteaus for the merger, and hopes to complete the transaction this month, said Daniel Demoise, Shenango executive vice president.

Shenango would continue to operate its existing coke-making facility on Neville Island, consisting of one battery of 55 ovens. It has 190 employees at that location.

"Locating the new coke works on Neville Island would help our existing facility in terms of marketing, employment and making the existing plant more competitive," Demoise said.

But environmental groups are concerned that changes sought by LTV and additional emissions from a new Shenango coke operation would result in degradation of air quality in the county.

"LTV has designed it so that the communities vying for the new coke plant will fall all over themselves to get it and make air quality concessions," said Marie Kocoshis, Group Against Smog and Pollution president.

Westman said there is interest in the new jobs, but environmental standards won't be compromised.

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