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  • Writer's pictureValley Clean Air Now

VCAN Board Members Seek to Expand Air Purifier Program with Help of US Steel’s Community Benefit Trust, Wednesday, May 23, 7:00pm, Liberty Borough Building

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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