Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward argued on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday that Scranton native Joe Biden and his administration are “partially responsible” for the cancelation of a $1.5 billion steel project, which would cost “at least 1,000 blue collar jobs” because “of their focus on only green energy.”
Late last month, Pittsburgh-based United States Steel Corp. said that it is canceling the project to bring a state-of-the-art improvement to its Mon Valley Works operations in western Pennsylvania, citing the fact that the landscape has changed in the two years since the company announced its intentions.
According to the company, project permits initially stalled by the coronavirus pandemic never materialized, U.S. Steel has added capacity elsewhere and now it must shift its focus to its goal of getting rid of greenhouse gas emissions from its facilities by 2050.
Ward called the situation an “epic disaster,” explaining that “here we are with all of these blue-collar jobs and we have these really elitist environmentalists meddling in this stuff, we’re not getting our permits to do this work and these people, the environmentalists, if they lose their job, so what? They can still pay their bills right? They can still keep their kids in their private schools, they can still fly their jets.”
The loss of what would have been one of the largest industrial investments in Pennsylvania led to criticism from Ward and other politicians in the state, labor unions and business organizations regarding why the project could never secure permits. Some worried it will reduce the prospects of steelmaking in the area.
Ward stressed on Thursday that Pittsburgh is “the steel city.”
U.S. Steel said the company is still committed to steelmaking in western Pennsylvania.
“Time kills permits. It just does,” Ward said, noting that “administrations change.”
“The Biden administration has a very big target on decarbonization so although this plant would have decreased its footprint, it would have provided at least 1,000 blue-collar jobs and 3,700 people work at the plant now,” Ward added. “Yet, here we are because they couldn’t get the permits and things changed.”
U.S. Steel revealed the update in an earnings call last month and in an “open letter” on social media.
“The world is changing rapidly and we’re on the ten-yard line with 90 yards ahead of us,” David Burritt, the company’s president and CEO, said in the letter.
He added that “in the wake of the 2020 pandemic and the increased urgency of the climate crisis, we are reviewing all projects and facilities with an even greater focus on their implications for our carbon footprint.”
Tom Melcher, business manager for the Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council, also noted that the loss of the project will mean the loss of approximately 1,000 full-time union construction jobs and a longer-term threat to the 3,000 workers at the Mon Valley Works complex.
In a statement Melcher said, “It’s absolutely unacceptable that any politician or business or community leader who claims to be supportive of union jobs and a strong middle class can allow this project to be lost.”
Speaking with host Steve Doocy on Thursday, Ward stressed that other jobs won’t be able to replace the lost jobs given those that were supposed to hold those positions “are trained trade union members.” She added that retraining those workers in something else is “unnecessary.”
U.S. Steel said it does not anticipate laying off any of the 130 full-time workers at the three batteries at its Clairton Plant that the company also announced it will close by early 2023. According to U.S. Steel, job reductions will come from retirements and reassignments.
The company said the three batteries represent about 17% of coke production at the Clairton Plant and closing them will help to reduce polluting emissions from equipment long-criticized as among the area’s worst polluters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.