Steel future: Clairton coke-making gets a lease on life

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Pittsburghers talk so much about the new economy that they sometimes forget steel is still made here. Get used to it, now that U.S. Steel has announced plans to invest $1 billion to upgrade the Clairton coke works.

Steel City, anyone?

Local officials are calling it the largest capital project since completion of Pittsburgh International Airport 15 years ago. That's big news not only for the 1,200 people who have jobs at the coke facility, but also for those who work at the company's Edgar Thomson and Irvin plants, which will benefit from the project as well.

The strategic investment would build two new coke batteries at Clairton, install top-flight environmental controls and add a cogeneration plant that would make electricity from gas produced by coke-making, which will help power all three U.S. Steel sites.

Keeping the capital infusion on track is contingent on corporate board approval, economic conditions and environmental permits from the Allegheny County Health Department. Although Clairton has substantially reduced pollution emissions over the years, any change in its production process raises questions about impact on air quality.

U.S. Steel officials say the new batteries and pollution controls are environmentally benign, but that will be determined when the specifics of the technology are scrutinized. We commend the company for investing in the Mon Valley and we hope that the package it put forth last week -- stable jobs, state-of-the-art coke-making and cleaner skies -- is solid as steel.


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