Pittsburgh-based United States Steel Corp. announced Friday that it is canceling a $ 1.5 billion project to upgrade its Mon Valley Works operations in western Pennsylvania to the state of the art. The world has changed in the two years since it announced its intentions.
The project approvals, which were originally stalled by the pandemic, never came about, US Steel has added capacity elsewhere and must now focus on the goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from its plants by 2050. “We had a window of opportunity and it is absurd that we as a region allowed that window to be slammed,” said Jeff Nobers, executive director of Pittsburgh Works, a coalition of unions, companies and local chambers of commerce.
US Steel announced the news in a Friday morning earnings call and an “open letter” on social media. It also said it will shut down batteries 1, 2, and 3 at its Clairton plant by early 2023 – which is roughly 17% of the coke production at the plant – in an attempt to reduce pollutant emissions from equipment that has long been considered the worst Polluters in the region are criticized.
“The world is changing rapidly and we are 90 meters ahead of us on the ten-yard line,” said David Burritt, company president and CEO, in the letter. US Steel said it does not expect to lay off any of the 130 full-time workers at the three batteries and the job cuts will come through retirements and reassignments. Two years ago, plans were made to improve steelmaking efficiency and reduce emissions at Mon Valley Works’ plants.
The addition of new casting and rolling technology at its Edgar Thompson facility to combine thin slab cast and hot rolled strip production in one process has been touted as the first of its kind in the United States. The Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council blamed the loss of the project by unnamed local elected officials who were accused of lack of support and open hostility towards the company and its workers.
That means the loss of approximately 1,000 full-time union building jobs and a longer-term threat to 3,000 workers in the Mon Valley Works complex, said Tom Melcher, executive director of the Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council. “It is absolutely unacceptable that any politician, business or community leader who claims to support union jobs and a strong middle class can allow the loss of this project,” Melcher said in a statement.
This delay came after the Allegheny County Health Department suspended the approval process because of the challenges the coronavirus posed to the public comment process. US Steel never received those permits, and it was advised that a competing steelmaker in another state announced a new steel mill over the same period and will be ready to produce steel this year.
In the meantime, US Steel commissioned the manufacture of the devices and began site Preparations, but it stayed in the early stages of the project with over $ 170 million equipment spent and stored in warehouses in the Pittsburgh area.