Suit claims U.S. Steel violated Clean Air Act

2012-08-02T16:45:00Z 2012-08-03T19:00:37Z Suit claims U.S. Steel violated Clean Air ActBy Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | U.S. Steel Corp. has been hit with a federal lawsuit claiming the company violated the Clean Air Act at three Midwest facilities -- including Gary Works.

The 72-page civil suit, which brings together the Environmental Protection Agency and the states of Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, targets the Gary plant for modification violations, exceeding emission levels and failing to report emissions.

The suit claims the company modified the No. 4 blast furnace in 1990 by upgrading its cooling system, which resulted in a significant increase in the emission of nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. The EPA regulates those emissions because elevated levels are known to contribute to respiratory health problems, particularly for children, the elderly and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

Jill E. Ritchie, director of public policy and governmental affairs for U. S. Steel, said Thursday the issues in the lawsuit had already been addressed by the company.

"We are aware that the lawsuit has been filed, and the allegations are inaccurate and misleading. The complaint seeks to raise issues that were properly resolved years ago after the expenditure of millions of dollars. For example, part of the complaint deals with the routine repair of Blast Furnace No. 4 that occurred in 1990 -- more than 20 years ago -- that was performed after all proper reviews, approvals, and permits were obtained. U.S. Steel will vigorously defend this action and its substantial financial investment in environmental controls and its commitment to protecting the environment in Indiana and elsewhere."

The company carried out the major modifications without first undergoing review, obtaining a permit or installing air pollution controls, according to the suit.

The company is also accused of failing to report emissions and of violating visible emission standards at a number of its blast furnaces, basic oxygen processing shop and coke processing equipment, according to the suit. Violations reportedly occurred dozens of times since 2006.

Other company sites targeted in the suit include Granite City Works in Granite City, Ill., and Great Lakes Works in Ecorse, Mich., according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed the civil complaint.

The state of Illinois is also alleging separate claims under Illinois State law, according to the DOJ. 

Staff Writer Lauri Harvey Keagle contributed to this report.

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