Prove your humanity

U.S. Steel says it’s dropping plans for a fracking company to drill for gas at a Pittsburgh-area steel mill.  The decision comes after years of opposition to the project from some residents.

A turning point on the project came last fall when a local zoning board denied a permit extension to Merrion Oil and Gas, the company developing the well. 

The company was planning to appeal that decision, but last week, U.S. Steel said it’s pulling the plug on the project. In a statement, the company said it “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.”

Edith Abeyta, with North Braddock Residents for Our Future, said the decision shows the power of collective action. For years, her group fought the well, saying it would add to the air pollution caused by the US Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works. 

“It’s incredible,” she said. “All the work that so many people have done …The people have been listened to.”

New Mexico-based Merrion Oil and Gas received a permit from East Pittsburgh Borough for a conditional use to drill and frack a well at US Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works in 2018. 

But Abeyta and others in her group, along with several environmental groups, fought the project. In October, East Pittsburgh officials denied a crucial permit extension.

 “Their willingness to stand up to not only the oil and gas industry but also to US Steel is…a great example of democracy in action,” Abeyta said. 

In an email, Merrion Oil and Gas operations manager Ryan Davis said the company was dropping the appeal of its zoning permit denial and had agreed to “abandon our efforts to drill a well at the Edgar Thomson Steel Mill.”

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.