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Jun. 18, 2003

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Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Butler wants out of E-check

AK Steel could get air cleanup help

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - The Butler County commissioners want to help AK Steel by diverting the money from the E-check program to help pay for air-quality equipment the company must buy to meet federal clean air regulations.

The proposal by Commissioner Mike Fox calls for the state to exempt Butler County from E-check, the state's auto emissions monitoring and maintenance program, and institute an annual air-quality surcharge of $29.50 - $10 higher than the E-check fee.

Most of that $10.5 million per year would be used to help AK Steel pay for the $80 million cost of new air cleanup equipment required to meet federal air quality regulations. About $2 million from that revenue could be used for a fund for public transit or for other industries in the county that might be faced with new environmental cleanup costs.

It would, however, require the approval of Gov. Bob Taft and the state legislature.

Specifically, the state would have to exempt Butler County from the E-check program starting in 2005, when the state's contract with the company operating the program expires, and authorize the commissioners to make the air-quality surcharge $10 higher than the E-check fee.

Environmental regulators say emissions testing has led to improved air quality in congested areas. But Butler commissioners contend that E-check doesn't significantly reduce air pollution, and they're worried that AK Steel's financial problems could result in the loss of hundreds of jobs. AK, which has 4,072 employees, is the second-largest employer in Butler County.

"We would be devoting the money to something that will not only clean the air, but also will preserve jobs," Fox said. "It seems to me it's a win-win deal."

The commissioners told their staff to research the possibilities for this proposal and to discuss it with AK Steel officials.


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Jun. 18, 2003
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