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Canadian steel, concrete, aluminum and wood: low carbon solutions for public infrastructure

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, February 2, 2021

In a February 1 press release, Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada of the United Steelworkers says, “We need our governments to support the creation and retention of good jobs by strengthening Canadian industrial and manufacturing capacities in ways that support the low-carbon transition of the economy”. To support that point, Blue Green Canada has released a new report, Buy Clean: How Public Construction Dollars can create jobs and cut pollution . Buy Clean calls for the use of Canadian-made building products in infrastructure in order to reap the dual benefit of reducing carbon emissions and supporting local industry and jobs. The USW press release continues: “Buy Clean makes sense for Canada because it leverages our carbon advantage. Whether its steel, aluminum, cement or wood, building materials sourced from within Canada are typically lower carbon than imported materials” – thanks largely to our low-emissions energy supply and reduced transportation costs. The report recommends that all levels of government continue and expand the use of Buy Clean policies for procurement. The report also calls for an Industrial Decarbonization Strategy to encourage technological innovation in the manufacture of steel, aluminum, concrete and wood , and for a “Clean Infrastructure Challenge Fund” , to act as a demonstration fund modelled on the Low Carbon Economy Challenge, but available only for public infrastructure projects, not to private industry.

Buy Clean: How Public Construction Dollars can create jobs and cut pollution is also available in a French-language version, Acheter Propre: Créer des emplois et réduire la pollution par une utilisation judicieuse des fonds publics en construction . The report includes appendices for each of the sectors, providing brief but specific summaries of how Canadian industry has already achieved lower carbon processes than their competitors – particularly in steel and aluminum, and what further decarbonization opportunities remain.

The Buy Clean message seems closely related to the Stand Up for Steel national campaign by the United Steelworkers, which also calls for the use of Canadian-made steel in infrastructure projects. After the disruptive tariffs levied by the previous U.S. administration, the Stand up for Steel Action Plan also calls for the right for unions to initiate trade cases; for expanding the definition of ‘material injury’ in trade cases; and for a carbon border adjustment on imported steel.

Remembering the Deadly Donora Smog

By Kari Lydersen - In These Times, October 27, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

DONORA, PA — Forty-six years ago this week, a thick noxious cloud enveloped Donora, a steel mill town on a lush hillside above the Monongahela River 37 miles south of Pittsburgh. Residents were used to pollution from the town’s cluster of industries that formed the bedrock of the region’s economy making steel, wire and nails.

They were used to plumes of smoke billowing into the sky and seeing everything covered in red dust from the iron ore used to make steel, as Charles Stacey, a long-time resident, teacher and local historian, told In These Times on a visit in June.  

Stacey grew up by the river across from the Donora Zinc Works, where no vegetation grew because of the fumes.

“I didn’t see grass until I was 50,” he says. “Air pollution was a way of life in Donora. You put your hand out and you couldn’t see the tip of your fingers. You could trip off a curb because you couldn’t see. But usually by lunchtime, the wind would blow it away.”

On October 26, 1948, a Tuesday, the cloud did not move by lunchtime or by evening. The cloud didn’t lift the next day, or the next. The annual Halloween parade was held on Friday as usual, but you couldn’t see across the street. People struggled to breathe during the high school football game on Saturday.

Stacey, who was 16 at the time, described valiant firefighters going house to house checking on residents, carrying oxygen tanks, crawling and feeling their way along the streets they had grown up on because walking made it too difficult to see and breathe.

Investigations would later confirm that a temperature inversion, a layer of warm air hovering above the valley, was preventing the dissipation of air pollution from the mills—specifically from Donora Zinc Works, which produced a toxic blend of sulfuric acid, nitrogen dioxide, fluoride and other compounds.

Officials at U.S. Steel Corp., owner of the mills and the zinc works, maintained that the situation was not caused by their operations. For several days, the company refused to shut down despite public pleas to do so. The zinc works finally halted operations on Sunday. After a rain fell soon afterwards, the air began to clear.

At least 20 deaths were attributed to the pollution, and up to 7,000 people fell ill or were hospitalized. The total death toll could be pegged at more than 70, according to some reports, by comparing normal mortality rates with rates in the month following. The incident became known as the Donora Smog.

Read the entire article, here.

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