A decade of cleaner air ended in controversy and questions about Allegheny County’s future

At the start of a new decade, the challenges of local air pollution enforcement are changing. It’s critical for regulators to respond to unexpected events as effectively as ongoing pollution. And climate change is making their job harder. 

The air quality in the next decade will also be shaped by a regional economic debate about the expansion of the petrochemical industry and fracking, which could increase pollution in Allegheny County.

But some of the biggest changes may not be up to regulators: U.S. Steel recently put one of its coke oven batteries on “hot idle” for economic reasons, which reduces pollution, and has promised to build cleaner technology to reduce emissions even more. And whoever is running the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] could limit or enhance the county’s ability to take action in the future.

Family history, loss and hopes for a bright future fuel my fight for clean air in Clairton

Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. I live in a third-generation family home. It sits on a ridge at the top of the hill overlooking U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works. My father worked hard on this house; he added onto it, extended it out, lacing it with gorgeous stained glass windows that he procured from local churches or schools when they were being torn down in our area. As long as the curtains are drawn back, I can see the smoke billowing from the stacks.

Dennis Towne (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

When better isn’t good enough: Why I tell my Google co-workers and industry peers to avoid Pittsburgh

Editor's note, Jan. 11: Google issued a statement in response to this first-person essay. Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. In 2017, I was working for Google in the Bay Area of California, lamenting the ever-rising cost of housing, when a co-worker mentioned he was moving to Pittsburgh. I talked it over with my partner, and we did some basic research.