Editorial: For US Steel, heeding Toomey’s questions is a start
In 2019, US Steel’s announcement of a $ 1.2 billion investment in its Mon Valley Works sparked questions and excitement – the right kind of anticipation. Yes, there would be a new endless casting and rolling facility at Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock and a cogeneration facility at the Clairton plant, but there were still things people wanted to know.
When would construction begin? How long would it take? Would this have an impact on the issues Clairton had seen with air quality? How? What about jobs?
On April 30, US Steel made a new announcement. After two years of waiting, CEO David Burritt said it was “a difficult day”, the day he said no massive investment would happen.
Now Senator Pat Toomey has new questions for US Steel. During a visit Wednesday to a labor forum in Pittsburgh, the Republican senator expressed the same kind of desire for answers as locals.
“Steel prices are at an all time high, demand is strong, the economy is growing, infrastructure is all everyone is talking about, and we have this big facility that has already made a big investment that will lead to some of the cleanest steel in the world, ”Toomey said. “What happened? That’s the question.
It’s too simple to blame it purely on environmentalists chasing US Steel, as suggested by Greg Bernarding, trade manager for Ironworkers Local 3.
US Steel has certainly faced challenges in this area. The company was fined more than $ 9.8 million by the Allegheny County Health Department over a 15-year period. In January 2019, the ministry began warning of high sulfur dioxide levels following a Christmas Eve gas fire that shut down pollution control systems.
But this is nothing new. This isn’t a change from 2019. And that’s why Toomey wants answers.
“I’m going to ask them to explain what happened here, why did it sound like a good project two years ago, then two years later it’s over?” Said Toomey.
This is the most important question. Southwestern Pennsylvania is the same place today as it was in 2019. While US Steel has built these communities over the past 100 years, those same communities have built US Steel as well. There has to be a way for the two to work together on the same symbiotic relationship they have enjoyed for decades, understanding the whipsaw nature of the steel industry, with cost competition nationally and internationally.
Toomey didn’t just ask questions. He also pointed to a solution – the infrastructure investment that Democrats and Republicans have touted for years. It was a favorite talking point for the Trump administration and it’s a priority for the Biden administration now, although Republicans like Toomey want a plan significantly smaller than the White House’s.
“It’s roads and bridges, highways and airports and all the things we understand are infrastructure, and there’s bipartisan support for that,” Toomey said.
And most importantly, a lot of this will involve steel that could come out of Mon Valley factories and projects nationwide, making it all the more important to have viable and up-to-date factories on board – and wonder why they will not be updated answered.