- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Detroit-based energy company announced it will close a Pittsburgh-area coke plant within the next month due to declining demand in the steel industry.

DTE Energy said Thursday that global overcapacity in the industry and international trade issues led the company to its decision to close the Neville Island plant in mid-January.

The company’s director of steel Ronald Burnette told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last month that the company was committed to keeping Shenango running, but said in a statement Thursday that they “simply had no options” for keeping it open. The plant produces blast furnace coke and related products for steelmaking and employs 173 workers.

DTE officials said affected employees will remain on payroll for 60 days after the plant closes. The company will then offer severance packages.

Mike Ruane, president of United Steelworkers Local 5032, which represents many Shenango workers, said they were “blindsided” by the decision when they were informed on Thursday at a meeting with company officials to negotiate a new contract.

“It’s like a funeral here,” Ruane said. “There (are) a lot of guys who made a good living here for several years.”

Union staff representative Charles Leonard said that both parties did what they could to make Shenango a success, noting that the company invested millions into the plant. DTE spent $22 million on improvements since buying the plant in 2008, and planned to spend $41 million more through 2018, according to a report on the company’s website.

DTE will consolidate its coking operations to a facility in Michigan, but hasn’t determined what it plans to do with the plant after it closes.

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