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Plans for Gas Well on Steel Mill Property Scrapped

U.S. Steel has scrapped plans to have Marcellus Shale gas wells drilled on the property of its Edgar Thomson Works in Allegheny County.

The steelmaker made the announcement last month, ending the controversial project that has been in the planning stages for about five years with Merrion Oil and Gas of New Mexico.

“U. S. Steel has decided to exit a lease agreement that would have allowed a natural gas well on the property of our Edgar Thomson Plant,” the company said in an emailed statement. “U. S. Steel values input from our neighbors and the communities where we live and work, as well as the open dialogue needed to balance our responsibilities to our shareholders, our neighbors, and to environmentally sustainable steelmaking.”

The project was initially to involve construction of an unconventional gas well pad, two access roads, and five freshwater storage tanks on about 13 acres of property near Braddock in North Versailles and East Pittsburgh, with U.S. Steel using some of the gas for its operations. The project has been opposed by some community groups concerned about potential health effects in a disadvantaged area of the Mon Valley already dealing with smokestack emissions from the mill.

Merrion in 2017 received conditional use approval from East Pittsburgh council for the work, and Merrion continued to work its way through the state Department of Environmental Protection approval process. However, borough council in 2020 determined that the conditional use had expired because no work had started in two years, as called for in the borough zoning ordinance and revoked the permit. That action was upheld by the East Pittsburgh Zoning Hearing Board. Merrion appealed the ruling to Allegheny County Court.

In December, the state Department of Environmental Resources suspended its review of the project because it failed to obtain the local permits.

“Merrion has agreed to withdraw our appeal of the East Pittsburgh ruling, to re-assign our lease rights to U.S. Steel, and to abandon our efforts to drill a well at the Edgar Thomson Steel Mill,” Ryan Davis, Merrion operations manager, said in an emailed statement.

U.S. Steel provided no other details on the decision or if other options are under consideration. The company announced about a week later that it was scrapping plans for $1.5 billion in upgrades at its Mon Valley Works, which includes the Edgar Thomson plan, leading to speculation about its future in the region.

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