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1. What is US Steel's Community Benefit Trust?

2. How is the Trust Distribution Board to distribute US Steel’s penalty money?

3. What is the Community Advisory Panel?

4. What will VCAN Board Members discuss with the Trust Distribution Board on May 23?

5. What can friends and contacts of VCAN do to help?


VCAN Air Filter Committee members Fred Bickerton and Dave Meckel explain how a LeVoit air purifier works to Mon Valley residents in the CEDCC Building in Clairton last February 16th. Photo by Tom Bailey


1. What is US Steel's Community Benefit Trust?


As a result of the 2018 Fire at US Steel's Clairton Coke Works (CCW), the Allegheny County

Health Department (ACHD) filed an Enforcement Action against US Steel.  In June, 2019 a Settlement Agreement was reached between US Steel and ACHD.  The Settlement Agreement was published on ACHD’s website for public comment.  ACHD required US Steel to pay substantial financial penalties for the contamination released during the 2018 Fire.


Some of the public comments ACHD received about the Settlement Agreement suggested the penalty money be given to the communities “adjacent” to CCW who suffer the most from the air pollution CCW releases.  On January 31, 2020, US Steel signed THE UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION COMMUNITY BENEFIT TRUST (CBT), a trustee agreement with Smithfield Trust to hold penalty money US Steel paid to ACHD to be held in trust for the adjacent communities of Clairton, Glassport, Port Vue, Liberty and Lincoln.   This document also delegated the ability to spend these trust funds to the Trust Distribution Board (TDB).



VCAN Air Filter Committee Members Art Thomas and Fred Bickerton were distributing air purifiers to Mon Valley residents at the Glassport American Legion on April 24th. VCAN Board Member Germaine Gooden-Patterson spoke to residents about US Steel's Community Benefit Trust. Photo by Tom Bailey


2. How is the TDB to distribute US Steel’s penalty money held in the Community Benefit Trust?


“The Settlement Agreement requires that Trust distributions must benefit the Adjacent Communities or the local environment through supplemental projects, and US Steel directs

that such supplemental projects must be anticipated to improve, protect, or reduce the risk to public health or the environment.


Such supplemental projects may include providing funding to improve physical community

infrastructure (such as the creation or renovation of parks, green spaces, or playground spaces), or fostering the creation or expansion of programs that are aimed at directly improving the well-being of residents, and need not be air quality-related, as long as an environmental and/or public health benefit can be recognized (the “Trust Purposes”). 


Any project proposals submitted must demonstrate a reasonable probability that the project will be successful.” See CBT Trust, Article I.

 

As of 1-31-20, the CBT was divided, for accounting purposes, among the Five Boroughs. These were the allocated fund balances.  Percentage figures, said to be calculated by using Allegheny County data, were as follows: 

Clairton Fund:     26.73%

Glassport Fund: 19.91%

Liberty Fund       16.11%

Lincoln Fund       21.91%

Port Vue Fund   6.32%


The TDB is to consider and decide proposed funding requests made by the “adjacent” communities of Clairton, Glassport, Liberty, Lincoln and Port Vue. 


Article III of the CBT spells out membership of the TDB and the purpose of their meetings includes:

“each such meeting will be for the purpose of considering and approving projects consistent with the Trust Purposes that are Proposed to be funded by the Trust. The Adjacent Communities shall be responsible for determining which projects will be presented to the Trust Distribution Board for consideration.”


Article IV discusses Distributions to Adjacent Communities:

“Each Adjacent Community may present to the Trust Distribution Board a slate of proposed

Projects that are consistent with the Trust Purposes. The deadline for a submission to

be considered at a scheduled meeting shall be 30 days before the scheduled meeting.”

 

Grant applications must be made on a specific form called the Common Grant Application Form.


During a TDB meeting:

“Each of the Adjacent Communities may invite any interested party to present and discuss

a Proposed Project, provided that at least one authorized representative of the organization sponsoring the Proposed Project shall be present at the meeting ‘considering the Proposed Project’.”

 

“At each meeting the TDB will ether grant or reject a Proposed Project that has been timely and properly submitted for consideration, will provide reasonable detail of the reasons for any rejection, and may require approved projects to be funded in stages or phases.”

 

Schedule of remaining 2024 TDB meetings:

 

Thursday, May 23, 2024, @ 7:00 pm - Liberty Borough @ 2921 Liberty Way, McKeesport, PA

Thursday, August 22, 2024, @ 7:00 pm – Lincoln Borough @ 45 Abe’s Way, Elizabeth, PA

Thursday, November 21, 2024, @7:00 pm - Glassport Borough @ 12 Monongahela Ave. Glassport, Pa.




On April 12, VCAN President Qiyam Ansari spoke to a rally of Clean Air Advocates and Allegheny County residents in front of the US Steel Building on Grant Street, Pittsburgh. US Steel shareholders voted to approve the sale of US Steel to Nippon Steel the same day. Photo by Tom Bailey



3. What is the Community Advisory Panel?


On February 5, 2020 US Steel and ACHD amended their Settlement Agreement by adding an Amendment.  Paragraph 2(b) of this Amendment to Settlement Agreement and Order obligated US Steel to complete specific improvements within the plant and to submit to five annual environmental air compliance audits at CCW. ACHD and US Steel are defined as the parties to this amendment. US Steel was to submit a final report of each audit to ACHD for review. In addition, US Steel agreed to submit a corrective plan to ACHD to address the audit findings.


Paragraph 2(i) created a second organization, called the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) that meets regularly.  The CAP is responsible to address the concerns of the adjacent communities. 


“The panel shall be composed of at least, one representative from US Steel and a local citizen and government official from each of Liberty, Lincoln, Port Vue, Glassport Boroughs and the City of Clairton, if willing to serve. The purpose of the CAP is to ensure open and transparent communication between the parties and the nearby communities.”  Currently the CAP meets in US Steel facilities.



VCAN Air Filter Committee member, Johnie Perryman, speaking at the May, 2022 press event before an Allegheny County Health Department hearing at the Clairton Municipal Building. Photo by Mark Dixon


4. What will VCAN Board Members discuss with the Trust Distribution Board on May 23?

 

VCAN’s comments will involve the possible expansion of VCAN’s current indoor air filter distribution program.  VCAN purchased and distributed air filters in 2019 to Mon Valley residents.  In the Fall, 2023 and Spring of 2024, VCAN has once again distributed over 450 air filters to residents throughout the Mon Valley.

  

VCAN has purchased the air filters with private grant money.  Members of VCAN's Air Filter Committee (Committee) have received truck loads of filters and stored them.  The Committee has advertised the distribution events, received and recorded air filter request forms and then operated the air filter distribution/education events in Clairton and Glassport.  The Committee has another distribution/education event scheduled in Lincoln on May 28.

 

 Use of CBT funds to purchase indoor air purifiers certainly fits the purpose of spending US Steel's penalty money.  US Steel was fined millions of dollars because the 2018 Fire polluted the airshed of the Five Boroughs.  The fine money US Steel paid should be used to help these same residents breathe clean air inside their homes and businesses.  We are attempting to “improve, protect, or reduce the risk to public health” of these communities.  

 

In our experience to date, the needs of most families and individuals can be met by two $100 Levoit filters.  If each of the Five Boroughs sought to meet the needs of 600 families, $60,000 would purchase the filters for that community.

 

On May 23, VCAN Board Members will introduce these ideas to members of the TDB.  We will also explain our intentions in writing.  We will ask each of the Five Boroughs to consider partnering with VCAN by submitting a funding request to be considered at their next meeting this coming August 22 in Lincoln Borough at 7 pm. 

 

If successful, the Committee would work with their municipal partners to purchase the filters, store the filters, process air filter requests and hold air filter distribution/education events.  

 



Clairton Coke Works on March 3, 2024 from State Route 837. Photo by Tom Bailey



5. What can friends and contacts do to help VCAN?

 

As friends and contacts of VCAN, if you live in the Five Boroughs we ask you to tell your municipality of our plan.  If you think partnering with VCAN would be good for your neighbors, contact the TDB representative from your municipality and explain why.


Contact Tom Bailey VCAN Secretary at 412.614.0227 or info@valleycleanair.com . Our Website address is www.valleycleanair.com


Please forward this email to another who may be interested. If you do not want to receive further emails from VCAN let us know. 5-15-24

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Valley Clean Air Now Steering Committee Member Germaine Gooden-Patterson speaks to Allegheny County Health Department Public Meeting May, 2023 on Clairton Coke Works Title V permit.


Community and Air Quality Environmental Justice groups/advocates gather in front of the US Steel Building on Grant Street, this Friday 4-12 during U.S. Steel Stockholder Meeting of Stockholders to request a People's Vote for a healthier future in the Mon Valley.


A gathering of Community and Environmental Justice groups and advocates will gather in front of the US Steel Building, 600 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, on April 12. The rally will coincide with the U.S. Steel Special Meeting of Stockholders to request a People's Vote for a healthier future in the Mon Valley.


The Rally Will Take Place Friday, April 12, from Noon to 2 PM on Grant and 6th Streets in front of the US Steel Building. Mon Valley residents and Environmental Justice advocates demand a seat at the table, #ProtectOurHealth, and a leadership commitment to a future that builds healthier communities in the Mon Valley that ensure clean air and water. 


Mon Valley residents and groups will speak throughout the hour of their wish to ensure that any vote of company shareholders hears the voice of impacted communities and stops the ongoing legacy of pollution and harm they have suffered.


To be clear, these advocates do not express a viewpoint on the sale itself. They do accept that a diversity of views may be shared on the sale of USS by workers and union members who may be present. 


They are expressing a concern and need to have their voices heard and addressed as part of a sale process that will majorly impact the communities where U.S. Steel facilities exist in the Mon Valley. A press release will be issued on the morning of April 12.





First VCAN Walking Tour of Clairton Coke Works with members of First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh and Tree Pittsburgh April, 2023.


Public hearing in Elizabeth on the draft Title V federal air permit for the Synthomer (formerly Eastman) chemical plant in West Elizabeth Borough 4-18 at 6 pm.


The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) has scheduled a public hearing on Thursday, April 18 to discuss the draft Title V federal air permit for the Synthomer (formerly Eastman) chemical plant. This public hearing is a rare opportunity for local voices to be heard. We are hoping to generate lots of interest in attending and participating during the hearing. The meeting will be held at the Elizabeth Event Center, 101 South 1st Avenue, Elizabeth, PA 15037.

 

Local residents are able to present written comments or oral testimony. Following paragraphs were written by the Allegheny County Health Department:


ALLEGHENY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT.The ACHD is seeking comments on the following draft permits. Members of the public may request copies of the documents by

emailing aqpermits@alleghenycounty.us or calling 412‐578‐8115. Written comments may be submitted to the Department at 836 Fulton Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15233 or by e‐mail at aqpermits@alleghenycounty.us by the end of the day on Thursday, April 18, 2024.

A public hearing will be held regarding the proposed issuance of these permits on Thursday April 18, 2024, at 6 pm at the Elizabeth Event Center, 101 South 1st Avenue, Elizabeth, PA 15037. Anyone who would like to speak at the hearing should register online at

least 24 hours in advance of the hearing on the Department’s permits webpage at https://alleghenycounty.us/AQnotices. If no one is registered to give testimony at the hearing by Monday, April 15, 2024, the hearing will be canceled. If the hearing is canceled, the

Department will provide public notice on the webpage or through the contact information listed above. When making comments on previously issued installation or operating permits being modified, please consider the modified language only. 


INTENT TO ISSUE MAJOR SOURCE (TITLE V) PERMITS

Under Article XXI, §2103.11.e. and §2103.21.c, notice is hereby given that the Allegheny County Health Department intends to issue a Title V Operating Permit to the following major facilities subject to the operating permit requirements under Title V of the Federal

Clean Air Act and Article XXI, Part C, Subparts 1 and 2. The Administrator of the EPA is being notified of this proposed action.

SYNTHOMER JEFFERSON HILLS (0058‐OP24), 2200 State Hwy. 837 PO Box 545 West Elizabeth, PA 15088, for the manufacture of hydrocarbon resins and dispersions used primarily in hot melt adhesives, rubber and plastic compounding, coatings, sealants, and

plastic modification. The resins are produced from C5 feedstock, monomers, solvents, and catalysts by way of cationic polymerization.

Resins produced include aliphatic, aliphatic/aromatic, aromatic, and liquids resins. Eastman Chemical Resins, Inc. acquired the Jefferson Site from Hercules, Inc. in 2001, and Synthomer acquired this facility from Eastman on April 1, 2022.

The proposed Title V operating permit contains all applicable regulatory requirements including monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting conditions. The permit includes requirements from 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart FF – Benzene Waste Operations, Part 63, Subpart FFFF ‐ Hazardous Air Pollutants: Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing (MON); Part 63, Subpart SS ‐ Closed Vent Systems, Control Devices, Recovery Devices, and Routing to a fuel gas system or a process; Part 63, Subpart UU ‐ National Emission Standard for Equipment Leaks; and Part 63, Subpart DDDDD – National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters. The facility is a major source of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and a minor source of particulate matter (PM), particulate matter less than 10 μm in diameter (PM10), particulate matter less than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5), oxides of nitrogen (NOX), oxides of sulfur (SOX), and carbon monoxide (CO)

as defined in Article XXI, §2101.20.

The facility is also a minor source of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) as defined in the U.S. EPA Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule."

 

The hearing is scheduled for April 18th 6:00 pm at the Elizabeth Event Center, 101 South 1st Avenue, Elizabeth, PA 15037 



VCAN Steering Committee member Art Thomas presenting his comments to ACHD at May, 2023 Title V Permit hearing for Clairton Coke Works.


Tom Bailey VCAN Secretary 4-9-24

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By Qiyam Ansari

This article was originally published in Public Source March 15, 2024, LINK


I first heard of Pittsburgh in 2010 when my mother told us we were moving there.


I looked it up on Google and saw it was a 13-hour trip with six people from our home in New Haven, Connecticut. All of 14 years old at the time, I thought: this will be rough. 


When I went on Google to search for Pittsburgh, all I saw was the steel industry and the Steelers. On the way there, I remember seeing all the farms in Pennsylvania for the first time, and I thought we were moving to the country. I was so happy when I started seeing houses again. 

As I got to know the area, I was in complete awe of how massive the old mills were and how many train lines crisscrossed the neighborhoods. When I first went Downtown, I thought Pittsburgh was the most beautiful city I had ever seen. The bridges, the water, the mountains, and the valleys inspired me. 






Qiyam Ansari at 16 in his high school counselor’s office during a 2013 “Dress for Success” event at Propel Braddock Hills High School. (Photo courtesy of Qiyam Ansari)


Until the morning of the air inversion that completely redirected my life,

we lived in East McKeesport. I was enrolled at Propel Braddock Hills High School. I wasn’t aware of U.S. Steel until John Fetterman, then the mayor of Braddock, had a community project in Braddock during high school. I later learned that they were responsible for the rotten egg smell that would often cause kids on my bus to say, “Who farted,” every time we drove by the mill on our way home. 


During my time there, I was a reasonably productive kid; I was an honor roll student, acted in a musical, was captain of my Ultimate Frisbee team, was a peer mediator, did Americorps, won prom king and tried my best to be a productive member of society.

 

I did all that despite asthma, which was well-managed until my junior year.


Fright Night prep became a real nightmare.

A week before Kennywood opened for Fright Night, I woke up to a typical fall day until my mom suddenly announced we were moving again, a few miles away to McKeesport. 

Moving was unexpected news for me at 7 a.m. I started packing the house because we only had one day to prepare.


I ran to my room and began to pack as any frantic teenage boy would; I threw everything into black trash bags and random boxes without labeling. As the day drew on, a temperature inversion brought a classic Pittsburgh mix of rain, hail and snow, all within 12 hours.  As I learned later, this inversion trapped polluted air close to the ground and created a potentially deadly environment, which I felt with labored breathing as my airways began to constrict.




 Ansari passed the U.S. Steel Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock on his way home from school, photographed here in January 2023. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)


Being a prideful idiot, I did not mention these symptoms to my mother, who only noticed when I could no longer hold in my strained coughs and wheezing. Being a very active kid, I had confidence in pushing my body. I had played entire games of Ultimate Frisbee without inhalers, so I thought I knew my limits. What I did not consider was that the toxic particles were so highly concentrated in the air that they were killing me and intensifying the asthma attack.

 

The next day, my life changed forever when, at 7 a.m., my lungs collapsed. I was still gasping and taking my inhaler, but my lungs were not responding until suddenly, I couldn’t inhale any air! I drifted in and out of consciousness until my brother found me and called the ambulance. 


We were six minutes away from UPMC McKeesport Hospital, but by the time I arrived, my heart had stopped, and I had to be resuscitated at the hospital. Hospital staff then put me in a helicopter for a flight to Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville, where I was sent to ICU. 


When I regained consciousness, I was in a hospital room filled with about 30 doctors. Everyone looked frantic, and then they kicked my mother out of the room so more doctors could come in. One doctor attempted to stick a pill up my anus, which I quarreled with all my strength, prompting the medical staff to put me into a coma as my body was not responding to any medication. Everything suddenly went very dark.


Died again and born again

I felt this immense feeling of peace and then terror when I couldn’t feel my body anymore. I was doing my best to grab or maneuver my way around, but I had no sensation of body, just my mind.

My mother sang, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when the skies are gray.” Suddenly, I was looking at my mother holding my hand beside the bed and at myself in the hospital bed, all sickly with tubes coming out of my nose and IVs everywhere. I thought, “God damn it, now I’m dead, I’ll never be able to go to Kennywood.”




Qiyam Ansari at 16 while in a medically induced coma in October of 2011, at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville. (Photo courtesy of Qiyam Ansari)


Then I heard a voice speak to me, and it sounded like the entire universe was talking to me. It said, “Don’t worry, I’ll show you why.” Suddenly, I was another person, born in an indigenous land in South America. I was a tribal leader fighting against invaders. I had a family, a tribe, a whole other identity, and I lived his life and died. I was then born again, and failed again, and born again, and died again, and born again, and died again. I finally remembered and screamed, “What am I doing here?” The voice said, “You failed but will not fall again this time.” 


I woke up in my hospital bed. I called the nurse into my room and asked how long I had been gone. She looked at me and said, “Two weeks.” 


This experience shook me to my core and forced me to question my identity, my purpose, and my path. I did my best to graduate high school and go to college, but the encounter weighed on my spirit. I met a mentor who told me I should go out and start trying to solve problems, so I did. 


The more I looked, the more problems I found: food apartheid, gentrification, disinvestment, redlining, government corruption, political nepotism, toxic air, toxic water and toxic food. Our world was a mess. I came across a request for proposals to help do strategic planning with two community groups from the Mon Valley focused on air pollution, and I felt this tug on my spirit that said to apply.



Qiyam Ansari, of West Mifflin, stands for a portrait in front of U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works on Feb. 27, in Clairton. Ansari joined Valley Clean Air Now, an air quality advocacy group based out of Clairton, around the time when fires at the U.S. Steel facility impacted the health of the surrounding community. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)


‘My son is breathing better now.’

In 2018, Clean Water Action and Clean Air Council supported two community groups concerned about air quality. Everyone was frustrated because they were sick and suffering from this pollution and felt it was their duty to help and warn their neighbors of the issues before it was too late. During our planning meetings, we decided on a group named Valley Clean Air Now. 


This was right about the time of the Clairton Coke Works fire. We were angry that we were not notified for weeks, and many residents couldn’t shelter in place because, without an air purifier, the pollution builds up in your home. 


Since then, we’ve distributed 401 air purifiers to 389 households in the Mon Valley, participated in civil society, and educated residents about the dangers of our air. Brianna from Liberty Borough told me, “My two Levoit air filters work great.  …  My son is breathing better now.”


Ansari organizes air purifiers to give away to Clairton residents and organizations in the Valley Clean Air Now offices, on Feb. 1, in Clairton. The waiting list for the VCAN air purifier program has surpassed 100 citizens. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)


When I speak to the residents we have been able to help, it fills my spirit with a sense of joy that they can find some comfort.  


The money needed to deliver this program to 10% of the Mon Valley is $8 million — far more than we can raise. 


When we educate residents and tell them about the high rates of asthma and cancer, they get angry. They fight, our regulators don’t listen, and they move away. We are losing our community through death, dispersion and degradation.


From left, Germaine Gooden-Patterson, John Perryman, Art Thomas, Qiyam Ansari and Fred Bickerton gather for a board meeting of Valley Clean Air Now on Feb. 1, in Clairton. The organization is running out of money to continue its air filter distribution program. Members are waiting to hear if the program will receive a share of the recent U.S. Steel settlement. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)


I hope I’m making the best use of my gift of a second chance. I want to give our families a chance at life and arm them with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves. I learned that I can’t do that alone. We will need others who are brave enough to spend some time or money to make things change. If we dare to dream, we can be the change we want to see in this world. 


I see the beauty and the strength of this land and its people, and I have faith that we can make our Mon Valley work for us.


Qiyam Ansari is the board chair of Valley Clean Air Now and can be reached at info@valleycleanair.com 3-20-24 Tom Bailey Secretary

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