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New coke plant may not materialize

Firm planning Neville Island facility is now in receivership

Tuesday, October 05, 1999

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The new $100 million Neville Island coke plant proposed by Shenango Inc. is in trouble and might never be built because of financial problems facing its Australian partner-to-be in the controversial venture.

Antaeus Group is in receivership in Australia and its American subsidiary, Antaeus Energy of Wakefield, Mass., has closed its doors, according to Daniel Demoise, Shenango's executive vice president.

"Something has happened. We were informed last week, but I don't know enough about it at this point to discuss it further," Demoise said.

"But I don't think there's anyone up there [in Wakefield]. I think everyone's gone from Antaeus U.S.A. And I don't know what Antaeus Australia plans to do."

Demoise did say that Antaeus' problems are "not good news" for the coke plant project.

Phone calls to Antaeus in Wakefield were not answered yesterday.

In the summer of 1998, Shenango proposed to partner with Antaeus Energy to build the new coke plant, which would employ 50 and use waste coal from West Virginia to produce 500,000 tons of coke a year.

The new plant was to operate next to Shenango's existing coke operation, which employs 200, produces 360,000 tons of coke annually and has a history of air pollution violations dating from the late 1980s.

Shenango has invested millions in pollution controls that, until recently, were ineffective.

Because of those continuing air pollution problems, Shenango is facing a federal and county lawsuit that is demanding $3.2 million in penalties for violations of a 1993 consent agreement in which the company promised to control sulfur and particulate emissions. Several citizen groups also have threatened suits.

According to the federal lawsuit, Shenango exceeded sulfur emissions limits on 816 days from August 1993 through 1996, and on 441 days from 1997 through April 1999.

The county Health Department gave preliminary approval to the new coke plant in April but has held up final approval pending settlement of the pollution claims and a plan to clean up emissions at the existing 55 coke ovens.

The new partnership, which was supposed to be completed this past spring but suffered repeated delays, would have provided the capital Shenango needed to install and maintain new pollution controls

"We were certainly planning on that," Demoise said. "It was our hope that the merger would create additional revenues for our plant's operations."

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