AK political solution seems bleakBy Thomas Gnau; Journal
Business Writer; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk to local government representatives, and a political
solution to the challenges confronting AK Steel’s Middletown Works
seems improbable, if not downright impossible.
Elected state leaders point out that new “maximum achievable
control technology” rules — posted on the federal register last week
— governing air pollution from integrated steelmakers are federal
Dealing with those rules — existing facilities must comply with
them within three years after their publication in the register —
could cost AK up to $80 million, a company spokesman has said.
“I certainly hope that federal elected officials are being
engaged in this discussion,” State Sen. Scott Nein, R-Middletown,
said late last week.
“AK is a key element and point of pride for Middletown, Butler
County and the eighth congressional district,” said Steve Forde,
spokesman for U.S. Rep. John Boehner, a West Chester Republican.
“Congressman Boehner values the contributions of AK and its
employees to the community and will work with them to keep those
contributions — economic and otherwise — strong for years to come.”
Boehner has written the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
expressing support for AK, Forde added. But Forde offered no
specific ways Boehner’s office might assist AK.
The new air pollution rules aren’t the only challenge facing AK.
Federal and state governments are suing the Middletown-based
steelmaker for alleged violations of environmental laws, a suit that
could go to trial in Cincinnati’s U.S. District Court late this year
or early next. The company is concerned about “punitive” fines
results from that suit.
And the Middletown Works blast furnace has not been re-lined
since 1984. AK’s leaders and workers have been proud about how long
they have been able to operate the furnace without re-lining, but
when that maintenance becomes necessary, it could cost $100 million
Avoiding those expenses altogether — by shutting down the
steelmaking part of Middletown Works — is an option AK’s leaders may
choose, AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy has warned.
That choice would cost more than 1,000 high-paying Middletown
And McCoy has said AK really doesn’t have three years to comply
with those new standards. Any pollution-control equipment needs to
ordered, engineered, installed and tested, he has said. Some
decision on the future of the Works’ hot end must be made in several
months, he has said.
“I think this is something the federal government never takes
into consideration when they pass these requirements,” said State
Rep. Gary Cates, R-West Chester.
Ed Shelley, president of the union that represents more than
3,000 workers at Middletown Works, Armco Employees Independent
Federation, wonders if low- or no-interest government-arranged loans
— or even grants — might be possible to help AK shoulder
“I think there should be more partnering between business, labor
and government,” Shelley said.
Asked about the possibility of loans, Forde said he could not
commit his office to anything, but he did not wish to rule anything
Middletown City Manager Ron Olson doesn’t see much that city
government can do. “I doubt it very much,” he said.
He added, “We would do anything we possibly could, because we
fully and completely support AK Steel.”