U.S. Steel Corp. has agreed to resolve Clean Air Act litigation initiated by the United States and three states in August 2012, by undertaking measures to reduce pollution at its three Midwest iron and steel manufacturing plants in Granite City, Gary, Ind.; and Ecorse, Mich.
The United States, together with the states of Indiana and Illinois and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, announced the agreement on Tuesday.
As part of the agreement, U.S. Steel will perform seven supplemental environmental projects totaling $1.9 million, to protect human health and the environment in the communities affected by U.S. Steel’s pollution, including a project to remove lighting fixtures containing toxic chemicals in public schools.
In addition, U.S. Steel will expend $800,000 for an environmentally beneficial project to remove contaminated transformers at its Gary and Ecorse facilities and pay a $2.2 million civil penalty. The agreement is contained in a consent decree filed Tuesday in federal district court in the Northern District of Indiana.
“Defendant U.S. Steel, a major global iron and steel manufacturer, has agreed to curtail significant pollution from its three Midwest plants,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This outstanding settlement, whose results will especially benefit the three environmental justice communities most closely affected by defendant’s pollution, is another example of how the Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and our state counterparts often work hand-in-hand to enforce our federal and state clean air act laws to protect the health and welfare of our citizens.”
“Today’s settlement protects communities in the Midwest from air pollution and puts important environmental projects to work,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Making sure companies comply with the law that protects clean air is an important way EPA safeguards the health of communities across the country.”
Under the consent decree, U.S. Steel will immediately repair, and later replace, a bell top on a blast furnace used for making molten iron at its Great Lakes Works facility in Ecorse. The bell top, through which raw materials are placed inside the furnace, has a worn seal that is causing increased emissions of hazardous pollutants and particulate matter. The new bell top is designed to eliminate those increased emissions. U.S. Steel will also implement improvements (following a third-party study) at its Great Lakes Works’ steel-making shop to reduce emissions causing opacity. At its Gary Works facility, U.S. Steel will repair a large opening in a metal shell that surrounds a blast furnace. The repair will eliminate excess emissions from that furnace.
Since 2008, U.S. Steel has worked with the state of Illinois to improve its environmental compliance at the Granite City Works facility, including installation of a new baghouse to control particulate matter and rebuilding its Electro-Static Precipitator. Under the consent decree, which resolves not only joint federal/state claims but also claims brought separately by the state of Illinois, U.S. Steel agrees to maintain the effective operation of its pollution control equipment and continue the work practices that have resulted in improved environmental compliance.
Many children in the Southwest Detroit, Ecorse and Gary areas attend schools that are lit by fluorescent ballasts that may contain polychlorinated biphenyls. As part of the settlement, U.S. Steel will conduct a joint federal/state supplemental environmental project in which the company will remove and properly dispose of such PCB-contaminated ballasts and replace them with non-toxic, energy-efficient lighting. U.S. Steel will also conduct another supplemental environmental project to install vegetative buffers composed of trees, bushes and shrubs on public lands near high-traffic roadways in Southwest Detroit. Such buffers are intended to reduce the transport of particulate matter emissions from heavily trafficked areas and thus improve downwind air quality.
“These measures to improve air quality in Southwest Detroit and Ecorse are an important step to helping communities who suffer the most from violations of laws designed to protect human health and the environment,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade for the Eastern District of Michigan.
“We welcome the settlement with U.S. Steel and look forward to the improvements to be made at its Ecorse facility, schools in Ecorse and Detroit and along high traffic roadways in Southwest Detroit,” said Director C. Heidi Grether of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “More importantly, we welcome the improvement in the air quality of the region that we expect will come from these changes.”
In addition, U.S. Steel will purchase a new street sweeper, equipped with enhanced collection capability, for use by the city of Granite City to reduce dust emissions. Other SEPs, state-only, that U.S. Steel has agreed to undertake include the removal and proper disposal of waste tires that have been dumped at locations in Gary, replacement of some exterior doors in Granite City public schools with energy-efficient doors and creation of a greenway and transit bike trail within Granite City.
“Today’s consent decree should be welcome news to the residents of this district and everyone who lives in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area,” said U.S. Attorney Donald S. Boyce for the Southern District of Illinois.
“Air pollution is a serious problem that continues to threaten our world, and we applaud U.S. Steel for its ongoing cooperation and the improvements it has agreed to make to bring its Granite City facility into full compliance. This office remains committed to enforcing the nation’s environmental laws in the Southern District of Illinois.”
“I applaud the united, collaborative effort by all parties who worked to resolve this matter and to hold accountable those responsible for polluting the environment,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “No one should be subjected to living and working in a polluted environment.”
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period following notification in the Federal Register and final approval by the court. To view the consent decree or to submit a comment, visit the department’s website: www.justice.gov/enrd
— From the Illinois Business Journal