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EPA urges delay in coke works on Neville Island

Friday, May 21, 1999

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

New air pollution controls proposed for Shenango's coke works on Neville Island as part of its draft permit to build a new coke plant there won't work, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For that reason, the EPA said yesterday in a letter to the Allegheny County Health Department that the installation permit should not be issued at this time.

Judith Katz, director of the EPA's Air Protection Division, urged the county to delay final permit approval until a consent decree is negotiated to ensure that the beleaguered plant complies with air quality regulations.

Most of the 25 people testifying at last night's hearing at Avalon Elementary School on the new coke plant, as well as a clear majority of the 200 people in attendance, also opposed issuing the permit.

Shenango and Antaeus Energy Corp. of Wakefield, Mass., want to build a $100 million coke plant next to Shenango's existing 56-oven coke battery, which has a two decades-long history of air quality violations.

Most of those attending the hearing cited health concerns and quality of life issues.

"The odors are bad in the morning," said Linda Law Caroll, of Bellevue. "Neville is just four miles from Downtown Pittsburgh, in a densely populated area, and is no place to allow expansion of coke production."

Many criticized the Health Department for failing to enforce its regulations.

Clean Water Action and the Group Against Smog and Pollution reiterated their demand that Shenango not be rewarded for its history of violations.

In 1998, Shenango had air pollution violations on 232 days, and on 31 of the first 90 days of this year. The county fined Shenango $20,300 for air pollution violations in 1996, $121,800 in 1997 and $139,775 last year.

The groups called on the Health Department to require Shenango to achieve and maintain compliance with air quality regulations before a new permit is considered.

The new coke plant, which would use waste coal tailings from West Virginia, would produce 500,000 tons of coke a year and employ 50 people. The plant now produces 360,000 tons of coke a year and employs 200.

Under the proposed installation permit for the new facility, Antaeus Energy/Shenango would continue to operate its existing 15-year-old coke battery, but would be required to upgrade air pollution controls by June 30, 1999.



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