July 1, 2020

PennFuture Legal Victory Forces EPA to Update Air Pollution Standards for Coking Operations

On June 26, 2020, PennFuture secured a legal victory in the Northern District of California which held that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must update its air quality standards for coke ovens across the country. 

In the case, PennFuture, represented by EarthJustice, argued that EPA failed to fulfill its statutory obligations to regulate pollution from coke ovens, such as the Clairton Coke Works in Allegheny County.

Coke ovens superheat coal, which is then used to make steel. This coking process produces more than 40 highly toxic air pollutants that cause not only cause breathing problems but also include known carcinogens that destroy air quality and cause devastating health complications. 

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set initial technology-based standards to regulate hazardous air pollutants from facilities, and to periodically review those standards. But in this case, EPA admitted its failure to undertake the necessary reviews for coke oven facilities. 

Specifically, this decision orders that, within 30 months, EPA must undertake an initial technology and risk review for “Pushing, Quenching, and Battery Stacks” and an updated technology review for “Coke Oven Batteries.” These categories are responsible for some of the most harmful air emissions from coking facilities.  

Although the court ruled against PennFuture’s remaining argument on jurisdictional grounds, this decision forces EPA to finally ensure that polluters are using the best available technology to reduce the hazardous emissions that threaten our communities.

“This is a huge win in PennFuture’s fight to protect the health of our communities in Allegheny County that have been subjected for far too long to the toxic air pollution from facilities like U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works,” said Jacquelyn Bonomo, PennFuture President and CEO. “Because these standards implicate some of the biggest cancer risk drivers from coking emissions, EPA’s regulations should provide significant public health benefits. We will continue to be engaged as EPA determines what additional protections must be established and technologies put in place to protect Pennsylvanians from these cancer-causing emissions.”


PennFuture is leading the transition to a clean energy economy in Pennsylvania, fighting big polluters with legal muscle, enforcing environmental laws, and supporting legislative policy that protects public health. PennFuture is engaging and educating citizens about the realities of climate change, and giving them the tools needed to influence lawmakers on the issues. Visit www.pennfuture.org for more information.

Jared Stonesifer
Director of Media Relations