Simmons Hanly Conroy helps community hold owners, operators accountable for years of harmful pollution
ALTON, Ill. – After years of enduring pollution from a neighboring steel mill and coke plant, thousands of Granite City, Illinois residents received justice Feb. 16 when a Madison County judge granted final approval for a $4.26 Million class action settlement against SunCoke Energy, Inc. and Gateway Energy & Coke Company, LLC (SunCoke) and U.S. Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel). Simmons Hanly Conroy (SHC), one of the nation’s largest mass tort litigation firms that helps individuals harmed by corporate wrongdoing, represented the class of more than 4,000 residents and secured the result.
The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit on Nov. 10, 2014 against defendants SunCoke and U.S. Steel. Residents living near the plants claimed airborne particles were released into the atmosphere and onto their properties during the plants’ operations. They also reported substantial amounts of noxious odors emanating from the mill.
“Home is supposed to be a place to enjoy time with family and feel safe from the world. For several years, the people of Granite City have been unable to escape the dirty emissions floating onto their homes and cars from the steel-making plants,” said Shareholder Ted N. Gianaris, who served as co-lead attorney along with Shareholder Jo Anna Pollock to represent the plaintiffs. “This settlement holds the steel mill and coke plant responsible for taking this refuge and enjoyment away from the neighbors.”
SunCoke produces a raw material called coke, which U.S. Steel then uses to manufacture steel. During their operations, SunCoke and U.S. Steel regularly released substantial amounts of particles into the atmosphere that left a silty deposit on neighbors’ properties and cars – sometimes even getting inside their homes. The plaintiffs claimed the defendants negligently failed to capture these emissions and failed to store and properly transport the coke.
On Aug. 28, 2017, Judge William A. Mudge of the Third Judicial Circuit agreed and granted preliminary approval for the $4.26 Million settlement. The settlement class included anyone who occupied property in a pre-determined geographical area from Nov. 10, 2009, through Aug. 28, 2017.
In 2013, SunCoke agreed to settle a separate claim filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and paid a penalty of $1.995 Million. They were also ordered to contribute $225,000 to the St. Louis Lead Prevention Coalition. The alleged violation concerned excessive bypass venting of hot coking gasses directly into the atmosphere, resulting in excess SO2 and particulate matter emissions from the facilities’ waste heat and main stacks in violation of EPA permit limits.
The case is Peggy Keltner, Jerome and Beverly Johnson and Melinda Duniphan, Plaintiffs, vs. SunCoke Energy, Inc. and Gateway Energy & Coke Company, LLC and United States Steel Corporation, Defendants (No. 2014-L-1540).