In 1995, the Monongahela River Valley’s air was among the most polluted in the United States. This collection of municipalities, about 10 miles southeast of downtown Pittsburgh, sat downwind from the Clairton Coke Works, which is a giant factory engaged in one of the dirtiest industrial processes known to civilization. It had been established decades earlier that people who grew up close to dense air pollution could suffer from chronic bronchitis, heart disease, premature death, lung cancer, and other debilitating ailments. If nothing changed in the Mon Valley, people would continue to suffer.

One major barrier existed between Mon Valley’s residents and clean, breathable air, however: the US Steel Corporation, one of the largest steel companies in the world. It wasn’t going to change anything without a fight. But a fight is exactly what it got.