|AK Steel news from 2004
Sep 27: Flowing poison
Butler County creek is one of Ohio's dirtiest; state tests waterways for pollution about every five years
MIDDLETOWN -- "A new fence meant to keep Amanda Elementary students from a toxic danger is little more than a jungle gym to a group of laughing children who jump the chain-link barrier as they run from the woods behind their school. 'This is what I'm talking about,' said Ray Agee, a Middletown activist. 'You tell children to stay away from something, it makes them want to go there more.' About 50 yards beyond the fence is Dicks Creek, a stream so polluted that state and local health officials have posted signs warning people that the water is unsafe to drink, fish and even touch. . . AK Steel spokesman Alan McCoy said the company has spent $66 million to resolve air-pollution issues stemming from its Middletown Works plant, 'and we continue to work toward a resolution on the remaining water issues.' In January, the company agreed to build the fence around Amanda Elementary. Although Agee said he's encouraged by the show of good faith, he's worried that the creek will remain a threat until it's cleaned up. Cleanup options include dredging all contaminated mud from the creek bed. The mud would then be taken to a hazardous-waste dump," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.
Jun 7: Execs cash out at exit door
Top raises in '03 go to former CEOs
TOLEDO -- "The Courier's annual review of executive compensation found that four of the year's five biggest raises went to executives forced out of their companies. These execs were then handed severance packages worth two to five times their annual salary and bonus in the year prior to their departure. . . .In the case of two executives, AK Steel's former CEO Richard Wardrop and former President John Hritz, shareholders still don't know how much severance and retirement packages will cost. Both executives sued the company, alleging they were due up to $63 million combined. Both cases went to arbitration and were settled this spring, but the company would only say the men got 'significantly less' than they were seeking," Dan Monk, Cincinnati Business Courier.
Jun 4: AK Steel renews Middletown ties
MIDDLETOWN -- "The company is also in the midst of a $65 million investment to its plants to cut dust and other pollutant expulsions, part of its agreement with the Ohio EPA to meet Clean Air Act standards by May 2005. The investment won't result in higher productivity or profitability for AK Steel, its president said, but is a necessary expenditure to 'right the wrongs' that may have been committed in the past. Wainscott said the investment shows AK's commitment to remain a major part of the Middletown area for a long time to come. His candidness about environmental and employment issues was well received by the chamber crowd. 'I'm surprised he was that outgoing, that open about issues,' said Ann Mort, director of the Middletown Convention and Visitors Bureau," Michael Kurtz, Middletown Journal.
May 24: Now on line:
Living downstream from AK Steel
MIDDLETOWN -- "Ohio Citizen Action has today posted a new website section, Living downstream from AK Steel, which chronicles pollution of Dick's Creek in Middletown, Ohio. PCBs and other pollutants from AK Steel have been found in the creek, which is designated unsafe for fishing drinking, or swimming. The site now includes photographs, maps, data on testing of water fish and sediment, and reports on Clean Water Act violations," Ruth Breech, Southwest Ohio Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, (513) 221-2100.
May 17: AK Steel not open enough
DAYTON -- ". . . the worst part came this past week when AK Steel reported in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had reached a negotiated settlement with [former CEO Richard] Wardrop for an amount significantly less than $51 million. The company didn't say how much it paid him, and a spokesman for AK Steel also refused to reveal how much Wardrop was paid. This is the wrong move. By keeping the amount secret, AK Steel is withholding that information from the very owners of the company -- its shareholders. The secrecy also goes against the spirit of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that is designed in part to promote more openness on the part of companies, particularly when it comes to how much executives are getting paid," editorial, Dayton Business Journal.
May 16: AK Steel works to reforge key bonds
CLEVELAND -- "With a new leader focused on repairing relationships with everyone from customers to unions and environmental activists, AK Steel Corp. is working to restore profitability. . . .The company is trying to shed its noncore assets and pay down debt. But it faces a significant labor cost disadvantage - estimated at $30 per ton on average compared with competitors that have shed retiree pension and health-care costs," Marcia Pledger, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
May 6: Update: AK Steel, Richard Wardrop settle claim differences
MIDDLETOWN -- "Paul Hodgson, a corporate governance expert with The Corporate Library, said all too often publicly traded companies can choose not to reveal payouts to former executives. 'Given that stockholders will have to pay for this, I think they ought to know,' Hodgson said," Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
CINCINNATI -- AK Steel settles with former CEO, Cincinnati Business Courier.
May 5: AK Steel, Richard Wardrop settle on severance
MIDDLETOWN -- "AK Steel Corp. and Richard Wardrop, the companyís former chairman and chief executive, have settled Wardrop's claims for severance payments, AK said in a document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday. Wardrop sought more than $51 million. But in its Form 10Q filing, the Middletown steelmaker said the former CEO didn't get that much in a settlement reached last month. The document does not say exactly how much AK paid Wardrop, but it does say company leaders expect the payment to have 'no material impact' on earnings or liquidity," Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Apr 26: AK Steel downgraded to "underweight"
NEW YORK, NY -- "According to JP Morganís research note published this morning, the current downgrade in rating is based on AK Steelís high cost structure, legacy cost obligations and weak profitability position. The company is facing unfunded employee obligations of about $3.1 billion, the analysts mention. . . AK Steel's weak financial position and the long term uncertainty regarding its legacy liabilities warrant a lower valuation for the companyís share, the analysts add," J.P. Morgan Securities.
Apr 22: AK Steel sets up phone line for complaints
MIDDLETOWN -- "Residents who have a complaint about dust emissions from AK Steelís Middletown Works now have a number to call. The toll-free number is (888) 215-1955, AK Steel officials said Wednesday. Callers may leave a voice mail message and a representative of the company will try to call back or establish initial contact within one business day, the company said. In a prepared statement, AK Steel also said it will try to arrange a mutually convenient inspection within 72 hours of the first call. If the complaint is found to be 'justified,' the company will 'make arrangements for reimbursement or services, such as cleaning, for the resident.' . . . 'The system continues and formalizes procedures we had previously adopted,' said Alan McCoy, AK Steelís vice president, government and public relations. 'Our goal has been, and continues to be, that AK Steel be a good neighbor,'" Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Apr 20: AK Steel reports first-quarter results
MIDDLETOWN -- "During the first quarter of 2004, AK Steel reported a loss from continuing operations of $16.4 million, or $0.15 per share of common stock, a substantial improvement compared to a loss of $42.4 million, or $0.39 per share, from continuing operations in the first quarter of 2003," release, AK Steel.
Apr 17: AK Steel's New Miami site may join EPA's 'Superfund' list
MIDDLETOWN -- "'Weíre concerned about well fields,' [Pablo Valentin, a remedial project manager at the EPAís Region 5 headquarters in Chicago] said this week. 'We just want to make sure there is no contamination going toward those drinking water wells.' Valentin said he didnít have enough information to talk about possible contamination at the 120-acre site at 401 Augspurger Road. Since 1994, AK has owned the property, which is about a quarter of a mile north of the Great Miami River. But AK has never used the site or made steel there. 'We have an idea that there might be some problem out there,' Valentin said. 'We don't know how big those problems are,'" Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Apr 13: Work begins on fence at Amanda
MIDDLETOWN -- "Walking a newly formed fenceline south of Amanda Elementary School Monday, Navaho Street resident Ray Agee sounded grateful. 'Itís a pretty good piece of fencing,' he said. 'If it keeps one kid out of there (Dicks Creek), Iíll be happy.' Work on the long-expected fence designed to keep Amanda students out of the creek started Monday. . . Waneta Avenue resident Scott Barnett, 15, said he and a brother have fished in the creek, although they didnít eat their catches. 'Who knows whatís in it, you know?' Barnett said. He said he probably wonít fish in the creek any time soon. But he added: 'If it gets cleaned, I will,'" Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Apr 12: Analysts: Steelmaker risks damaged reputation if it loses pollution lawsuit
CINCINNATI -- "Beyond the potential penalties that AK Steel could face, a loss at trial could hurt the company in the long term, said industry analyst Charles Bradford of Bradford Research/Soleil Securities in New York City. Federal and state regulators, in the lawsuit filed in June 2000, accuse AK Steel of at least seven years of hazardous waste violations and polluting a creek that runs by the Middletown mill, about 25 miles north of Cincinnati. There is still no trial date for the lawsuit in Cincinnati federal court," Spencer Hunt, Associated Press.
Apr 4: In Middletown, AK Steel striving to clear the air
MIDDLETOWN -- "'I started noticing it seven years ago,' said Paul Webb, a retired car insulation worker who lives on Lamberton Street in Mayfield. 'I thought it was just dust at first, but then you'd notice that you'd wash your car one day, and it was filthy the next,' said Webb, 69. James Cottle, 62, lived on Omaha Street in Oneida for 29 years before moving to the Middletown outskirts in October 2002. He said he regularly washed his house and replaced his carpeting during an unsuccessful campaign against the grit. 'I used pure Clorox and rubber gloves and a scrub brush, and it wouldn't come off because it had imbedded itself into the vinyl siding,' Cottle said. Ashly Laytham and a friend were playing at a park in October 2002 when an afternoon rainstorm chased them to her mother's house on Navajo Street. Inside, Laytham -- 15 at the time -- said they 'felt stuff on our arms' and a burning sensation in their eyes. Her mother, Tracy Beckman, said she tried to rinse their eyes with eye drops and placed wet washcloths on their eyes for three hours to relieve the discomfort. Beckman said she called AK to complain. Two months later, just days before Christmas, she said AK wrote her a check for $1,000. 'It was a rainstorm of metal,' Laytham said. 'I'm not kidding you. It was pouring it,'" James McNair, Cincinnati Enquirer.
Apr 1: State, AK Steel resolve suit;
Pollution controls coming by May 2005
CINCINNATI -- "The settlement does not affect the U.S. EPA's lawsuit claiming water pollution and illegal solid waste disposal practices by AK Steel. A Justice Department spokesman said that case, which seeks unspecified damages, is proceeding in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. AK Steel spokesman Alan McCoy said the company hopes to settle those allegations, too," James McNair, Cincinnati Enquirer.
CINCINNATI -- AK Steel agrees to cut emissions at plant in Ohio, Terry Kinney, Associated Press.
MIDDLETOWN -- Neighbors discouraged, yet hopeful, Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Mar 31: AK Steel reaches milestone agreement with Ohio EPA;
Company targets early clean air compliance, will address community concerns with $66 million project
MIDDLETOWN -- "A major component of the settlement is AK Steel's commitment to install specific pollution control measures at the plantís blast furnace to meet the Maximum Achievable Control Measure (MACT) standards of the federal Clean Air Act by May 2005, one year ahead of the federal compliance date of May 2006. The company will install MACT controls on its basic oxygen furnaces by May 2006. AK Steel said it will cost $66 million to design, engineer and install the blast furnace and basic oxygen controls," release, AK Steel.
MIDDLETOWN -- AK Steel, Ohio EPA settle on air claims, Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Mar 24: Concerns raised about Dicks Creek chemicals
MIDDLETOWN -- AK Steel to start fence April 12.
"[Ruth Breech, spokeswoman for Ohio Citizen Action's Southwestern Ohio chapter] said AK's stance with those concerned about the creek since [James] Wainscott became CEO in October has been 'quite positive.' Breech said she was trying to convince company leaders to hold a public groundbreaking ceremony when fence construction starts. 'I think that they're taking the proper steps,' Breech said," Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Mar 16: Governor, AK Steel chiefs now work amicably
MONROE -- "Ohio Gov. Bob Taft took a few moments Monday to talk about AK Steel Corp. and the state's relationship with the company while he visited Dayton Technologies Monday. It's a whole new day in terms of a very close working relationship, Taft said after his public remarks at Dayton Technologies' North Garver Road plant. Last June, Taft and the chief executive of Middletown-based AK seemed to be engaged in a war of words. The two sparred in newspaper ads and letters over Taft's May 2003 visit to a longtime AK customer, Lithonia Lighting, in Mexico with a representative of an AK competitor, Cleveland-based International Steel Group. But that was then. The CEO at the time was Richard Wardrop, who on Sept. 18 suddenly resigned with the agreement of AK's board of directors," Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Mar 11: AK Steel to spend $20 million on Middletown Works
MIDDLETOWN -- "AK Steel Corp. expects to spend $20 million this year readying the Middletown Works to meet approaching federal air pollution standards, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week. The total cost of that project will be $66 million, the Middletown-based steelmaker said. Tax-exempt bonds will finance part of that project, the company added in its filing, called a 'Form 10-K.' The annual report explores AKís financial state in 2003. Much of it is a review of information already released. James Wainscott, AK's president and chief executive, announced Jan. 30 that company leaders intend to keep open the front end of the Middletown Works, where raw materials are brought together to make steel. Previously, leaders had said air pollution rules and other costs might force them to close that part of the plant, ending in the loss of about 1,000 jobs there," Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
MIDDLETOWN -- Ex-presidentís suit settled, Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Mar 1: AK Steel says hopes to reduce hourly employment at its mills
CINCINNATI -- "AK Steel Corp. said Monday that it hopes to reduce hourly employment at its steel mills, one of several steps intended to help the company become profitable again after two years of multimillion-dollar losses. Reducing its labor costs is a key if AK Steel is to better compete with lower-cost rivals like International Steel Group Inc. or others including U.S. Steel Corp., both of which have cut work forces at their mills, industry analyst Charles Bradford said," John Nolan, Associated Press.
Feb 25: AK Steel promises to build a fence around Dick's Creek
MIDDLETOWN -- "'They say they're going to put a fence up. I think that's a great idea but all that's going to do is slow these children down. I don't think it's going to stop anything and it sure isn't going to fix the water problem. They need to go out and get the contamination out of the water,' said Tracy Lynn Reese, mother. 'I think it's very dangerous and the future health of Middletown depends on that creek being cleaned up cause there's hundreds of kids going down there,' said Raymond Agee, United Neighbors Against Dirty Air," Stacy Puzo, WCPO-TV News, Cincinnati.
Feb 21: Thumbs up to sidewalks, playgrounds and fences
MIDDLETOWN -- "Thumbs up to AK Steel for the 'good faith' gesture of erecting a fence behind Amanda Elementary School in order to keep schoolchildren away from polluted Dicks Creek. The fence -- to be installed in April -- is another indication that the steelmaker is taking a more conciliatory stance on certain issues than it has in the past. Although thereís little to suggest that students are going to the creek, this gesture will mean a lot to Amanda-area parents," editorial, Middletown Journal.
Feb 20: AK Steel to build school fence
MIDDLETOWN -- "AK Steel Corp. intends to build a fence behind Amanda Elementary School in April, the company's spokesman recently told an environmental advocacy group. The fence is designed to keep children away from Dicks Creek, part of which runs behind the 1215 Oxford State Road school. . . But in a letter to Ruth Breech, an Ohio Citizen Action spokeswoman, dated Feb. 13, Alan McCoy, AK's vice president of public affairs, wrote that AK's pledge to fund the fence 'is meant as a sincere and significant show of good faith.' Frank Chapman, Middletown City Schools business manager, said the fence will be 4 feet high. Chapman said it will begin at the bus turnaround area on Amanda's west side, follow the school property line to the creek, then turn north back to the school for about 700 feet, for an approximate length of 2,100 feet. He expects a gate will be along the fenceís southern extremity. . . 'Weíre glad to see AK follow through on a commitment because we hadn't heard updates in a while,' Breech said Thursday," Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Feb 17: "Living downstream from AK Steel":
A March 23 educational forum about water pollution in Dick's Creek and the Great Miami River valley
MIDDLETOWN -- "Come join community members, nature lovers, fishers, river recreators, educators and people interested in the health of themselves, their families and the region to learn more about the effects and clean up of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). We invite you to bring questions, comments and concerns to our group of experts and activists. Our panel includes Dr. Bruce Lanphear and Dr. Kim Dietrich of the Childrenís Center for Environmental Health at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and University of Cincinnati. Also community members and activists will be discussing fish advisory warnings, clean up alternatives and communication with the company, AK Steel," Ruth Breech, Southwest Ohio Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Feb 16: AK Steel: Where things stand now
MIDDLETOWN -- "The last few months have seen excellent progress in the AK Steel campaign. Here's a summary and a look at what's next. . . . It is not too soon to start giving credit where it is due: to the tens of thousands of citizens in southwest Ohio, local and regional community groups, AK Steel workers, AK Steel board of directors, and the company's new management, all of whom have played a role in the progress we have seen so far. Though we have come a long way, there is still work to be done," Ruth Breech, Southwest Ohio Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Feb 15: New era in labor relations
PITTSBURGH, PA -- More than a labor leader, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Feb 13: AK Steel: Next steps on Dick's Creek fence and air controls
MIDDLETOWN -- "During a meeting with you and other members of Ohio Citizen Action and local community representatives on December 17, 2003 in AK Steel's corporate offices, AK Steel agreed, subject to being able to meet all necessary conditions, to fund the installation of a fence behind Amanda School in Middletown. As we said at the time, and repeat here, our agreement to fund this project is meant as a sincere and significant show of good faith. We have subsequently met with the property owner. Pending approval of the property owner, and meeting all other necessary conditions such as a property survey, we believe the fence may be constructed in early April during spring break. We will apprise you of any significant developments in that regard. As you also know, our Board of Directors has approved, subject to securing financing, a $65 million project to install new air controls at the Middletown Works to comply with amendments (Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT) to the Clean Air Act specific to steel mills. We anticipate completing this project on or before the May 2006 federal deadline, and will, from time to time, apprise you of significant developments," Alan McCoy, Vice President, Public Affairs, AK Steel, to Ruth Breech, Southwest Ohio Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action (157 KB pdf).
Feb 9: Now more than 3,000 neighbor letters to AK Steel chief urging him to build a fence at PCB-contaminated Dick's Creek
MIDDLETOWN -- 3,157 neighbors, near and far, have sent handwritten letters and petitions urging AK Steel CEO James Wainscott to build a fence immediately around Dick's Creek to keep kids safe. Another 4,967 neighbors have written Middletown's Mayor and City Manager to get a safety fence built, Ohio Citizen Action.
Feb 5: Union chief: AK Steel bankruptcy a possibility;
Armco union president raises issue at meeting
MIDDLETOWN -- "'I really don't want to use this word, but I'm going to say this,' said Ed Shelley, president of Armco Employees Independent Federation. 'There is still some indication that AK is going to end up in bankruptcy.' Speaking to more than 100 members of Concerned Armco/AK Steel Retired Employees, Shelley said he was hearing from people 'who have a little more knowledge than Ed Shelley does,'" Thomas Gnau, Cox News Service..
Feb 4: Emissions pledge by AK Steel hailed by groups
CINCINNATI -- AK Steel's pollution control commitment could help in dispute with regulators, John Nolan, Associated Press. "Ohio Citizen Action, an environmental advocacy group that has been meeting with Wainscott, is encouraged by the planned pollution controls but would like to see AK Steel do more to reduce the amount of pollutants the mill generates, said Ruth Breech, an Ohio Citizen Action spokeswoman in Cincinnati. Ohio Citizen Action was pleased with AK Steel's recent promise to build a fence behind a Middletown elementary school to keep the young students away from the contaminated Dicks Creek, which flows past the Middletown Works and the school, Breech said."
MORE ON AK STEEL
Jan 31: AK Steel Middletown Works' 'hot end' to stay open
MIDDLETOWN -- AK Steel quarterly loss narrows, Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
MIDDLETOWN -- Analysts, execs point to AK Steel's 'comeback quarter', Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
MIDDLETOWN -- AK Steel invests in Middletown; $65 million means 1,000 jobs stay at mill, Mike Boyer, Cincinnati Enquirer.
MIDDLETOWN -- AK Steel to save jobs, install new pollution controls, Neil Relyea, WCPO-TV News.
Jan 26: AK Steel suit looms
MIDDLETOWN -- "For more than three years, The United States of America v. AK Steel Corp. has concerned mostly lawyers, environmentalists and a federal judge in Cincinnati. No trial has been scheduled. . . .Michelle Gatchell, a spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, said AK Steel and the government are still engaged in discovery, in which both sides exchange information. That could last until summer, she said. If the change in AK Steel's leadership made a settlement more likely, Petroís office wouldnít comment on that, Gatchell said last week. Alan McCoy, AK Steel's vice president of public affairs, said the companyís attorneys want resolution. 'We are quite hopeful that we can reach an equitable settlement soon, and we are encouraged,' McCoy said. 'But we continue to work toward resolution,'" Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
MORE ON AK STEEL
Jan 23: Lawyer: Ex-AK Steel exec 'stunned' by request to quit
CINCINNATI -- "In the arbitration notice, Robert A. Pitcairn Jr., [John] Hritz's lawyer, said the executive met with AK's eight outside directors in a special meeting on the morning of Sept. 18, shortly after the board had met with Wardrop. Robert H. Jenkins, an outside director and now AK's chairman, said Wardrop had resigned 'and that he should consider resigning as well,' according to the arbitration notice. When Hritz asked why, director Bonnie Guiton Hill 'responded that they believed there was a public perception that Mr. Hritz was too closely aligned with Mr. Wardrop. Mr. Jenkins echoed that sentiment,' according to the notice. An attorney for the board said it would be in the company's and Hritz's best interests that he resign, but 'made it clear' that if he refused he would be terminated without cause anyway. If he agreed to resign, the attorney said, it would be as an involuntary termination without cause, according to the notice. After discussing Hritz's severance and lump-sum retirement, Hritz told the directors 'if their minds were made up, he would act like a gentleman, would not grovel and that he would accept their offer and resign,' the document said," Mike Boyer, Cincinnati Enquirer.
Jan 14: AK Steel suspends base worker number, union says
MIDDLETOWN -- "AK Steel Corp. told Armco Employees Independent Federation leaders Tuesday that the steelmaker is suspending a contract guarantee calling for a minimum number of workers at AKís Middletown Works. . . . Asked if the move was a prelude to layoffs among hourly employees, [Alan McCoy, AKís vice president of public affairs] said, 'We have been engaged in dialogue with all of our unions but at this time we are going to keep the content of our dialogue among the parties,'" Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Jan 8: AK Steel to build fence in pollution dispute
MIDDLETOWN -- AK Steel hopes to build a fence at Amanda Elementary School. "Construction hasnít started, and a host of questions remain unanswered, including where exactly the fence will go, its size, length and cost, [Alan McCoy, AK Steel vice president of public affairs] said. 'We canít agree to do something that weíre not allowed to do -- bottom line,' he said," Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.
Jan 1, 2004: Hritz sues AK Steel
Ex-president says heís owed $6 million
MIDDLETOWN -- "AK Steel Corp.'s former president is suing the steelmaker, charging that he is owed more than $6 million by the company. John Hritz, who became AK's president in January, filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. In the action, Hritz argues that he was due $6,141,247 by Oct. 18. He said he hasnít received the payment. He submitted a written claim to the administrator of the companyís retirement plan Dec. 10 without receiving a reply, according to his lawsuit. . . . . the companyís board of directors has directed that the balance of severance and lump-sum payments not be made at this time, 'in light of the companyís financial performance during the last two years, its current financial condition and prevailing steel industry conditions,'" Thomas Gnau, Middletown Journal.