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Environmental groups support
lawsuit against AK Steel

 

For immediate release
June 7, 2001

Contact: Marilyn Wall, (513) 761-4003
Rachael Belz, (513) 545-6046

Two of Ohioıs largest environmental groups, Ohio Citizen Action and the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, have criticized U.S. Representative John Boehnerıs recent assessment of the USEPA lawsuit against regional polluter, AK Steel Corporation of Middletown.

Representative Boehner, in a letter dated May 3, 2001, requested the Bush administration reconsider the pollution lawsuit against AK Steel calling it ³punitive and counterproductive.²

"Representative Boehner's statements are outrageous. This is about protecting people. Representative Boehner should support the US EPAıs efforts to bring the same environmental protections guaranteed to all other U.S. citizens to Middletown, Ohio. AK Steel has gotten away with harming people's lives and property and damaging the environment for decades. It is time it stopped," Marilyn Wall, Conservation Chair, Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club.

On June 29, 2000 the US EPA filed a lawsuit against AK Steel Middletown for long-term environmental violations of water, air and land issues. The Ohio EPA has joined the lawsuit. The most recent amendment to the lawsuit was filed April 5, 2001.

³There have been numerous attempts by Ohio agencies to allow the facility to comply without accruing significant penalties. We donıt agree that seeking voluntary compliance, which has failed repeatedly with AK Steel, should be repeated," Wall said.

Butler County Commissioners recently wrote to Representative Boehner and expressed concerns that losing the pollution lawsuit could lead to the company shutting down its furnace.

The environmental groups called this tactic ³fear-mongering.² The groups cited AK Steelıs February 2001, 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in which the company stated that --

'Management does not anticipate any material impact on AK Steel's recurring operating costs or future profitability as a result of its compliance with current environmental regulations... Management believes that the ultimate disposition of the foregoing proceedings will not have, individually or in the aggregate, a material adverse effect on the Company's consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.'

"I have walked the Middletown neighborhoods most affected by AK Steel's pollution, and I've talked with many of the neighbors. It is shocking to see the pollution deposits on people's property. And the neighbors understand that what is on their houses and cars gets into their lungs. When we reviewed the state's files, we learned that neighbors had been voicing complaints for over 25 years, but nothing has been done. This lawsuit is years overdue," Rachael Belz, Southwest Ohio director, Ohio Citizen Action, said.

Ohio Citizen Action campaigns door-to-door on issues from toxic waste and food safety, utility and insurance rates to political reform. A non-profit, non-partisan organization with 100,000 members statewide, Ohio Citizen Action was founded in 1975.

The Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club was chartered in 1968 and has an extensive history of grassroots environmental activism in Ohio. More than 15,000 members make up seven regional volunteer-driven Sierra Club groups that work on environmental issues in their areas.

# # #


May 30, 2001

U.S. Representative John Boehner
8200 Beckett Park Drive, #202
Hamilton, Ohio 45011

Dear Representative Boehner,

The Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, 16,000 members statewide, and Ohio Citizen Action, 150,000 members statewide, feel that you have been misled as to the environmental and financial considerations around the AK Steel Plant in Middletown, Ohio. We believe this misinformation has caused you to oppose efforts to bring the facility into compliance with state and federal law.

AK Steel is a large manufacturer and holds an important position in the economic health of your Congressional District. However, the financial effects upon AK Steel which could result from their conviction for violations of environmental law are not based upon facts. The Butler county commissioners are spreading rumors that loss of the pollution lawsuit could lead the company to close. Their communications with Ohio Governor Taft, "What good is clean air when it comes at the cost of hungry children and unemployed parents?"are little more than fear mongering.

In fact, AK Steelıs February 2001,10-K filing with the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission, states --

"Management does not anticipate any material impact on AK Steel's recurring operating costs or future profitability as a result of its compliance with current environmental regulations. Moreover, because all domestic steel producers operate under the same set of federal environmental regulations, management believes that AK Steel is not competitively disadvantaged by its need to comply with these regulations."
Furthermore, regarding the environmental litigation, AK Steel states --
"Management believes that the ultimate disposition of the foregoing proceedings will not have, individually or in the aggregate, a material adverse effect on the Company's consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flows."

There is little doubt that AK Steel has failed to comply with environmental laws for many years. However, there have been numerous attempts by regulatory agencies to allow the facility to comply without accruing significant penalties. We do not agree that seeking voluntary compliance, a tactic which has failed repeatedly with AK Steel, would be successful.

We urge you to be swayed less by AK Steelıs abysmal environmental compliance record than by their callous disregard for the health, comfort, and safety of their neighbors and workers, your constituents. The files of our stateıs environmental agencies are bulging with years of citizen complaints about AK Steel. And one needs only spend an hour walking through the modest, well kept neighborhood next to AK Steel to see the stained homes and smell the foul air. Neighbors have sustained property damage to their homes, to their cars, and to other property. Their enjoyment of their property has been impaired by the thick, unceasing deposition of dust on their porches, swimming pools, and patio furniture. They can not enjoy a fresh breeze through an open window due to the regular release of rotten egg odors and pungent chemical fumes. Neighbors routinely suffer health effects such as irritated, burning eyes, nose, and throats. In addition, they live with the anxiety that the long-term chemical exposure may lead to severe, long-term health consequences for their families. Finally, a maze of well used foot paths leading from Amanda Elementary School on Oxford State Road to the shores of Dickıs Creek evidence the continued exposure of local children to the extremely high concentrations of toxic chemicals released by AK Steel, the failure of AK Steel to take adequate steps to protect the public or to clean the creek, and AKıs careless abuse of your districtıs natural resources.

We urge you to reevaluate the position that you have taken on this issue. Sincerely, Rachael Belz, Southwest Ohio director, Ohio Citizen Action Marilyn Wall, Conservation Chair, Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club CC: Governor Bob Taft Ms. Christine Todd Whitman, Administrator, USEPA Ms. Laura Unger, Acting Chair, SEC Mr. Christopher Jones, Director, Ohio EPA Mr. Cory Chadwick, Director, Hamilton County Dept. Environmental Services Mr. Robert Guenther, Assistant Regional Council, Region V USEPA Enclosure