Works decision in ‘few months’By Thomas Gnau, Journal
Business Writer, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
AK Steel Corp. leaders may decide the fate of Middletown Works’
steelmaking operations — and up to 2,000 jobs there — in a “few
months,” a company spokesman said Friday.
This week, stricter federal air pollution-control or “MAC”
(Maximum Achievable Control technology) rules were posted in the
Federal Register. AK and other integrated steelmakers have three
years to comply with those rules, installing pollution-control
equipment to cut metallic emissions, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency said.
But ordering, engineering, installing and testing the equipment
takes time, AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy said
“Realistically, we have months to make a decision,” McCoy said.
AK has about 4,000 employees in its plant and Curtis Street
corporate headquarters. The company has more than 10,000 employees
McCoy presented the economic picture facing AK this way:
MAC compliance could cost AK up to $80 million, he said. Relining
the blast furnace — maintenance that has not been performed on that
steelmaking end’s key component since 1984 — will cost another $100
million, he said.
McCoy added to that “untold millions potentially” of fines from a
federal and state lawsuit against AK alleging violations of
“This is not a threat,” McCoy said.
Government regulators say they hear those warnings. But they also
say they have a job to do — and that job includes enforcing federal
air pollution standards.
“There’s a very real concern that this is some sort of
posturing,” said Mark Gribben, spokesman for Ohio Attorney General
The attorney general’s office has joined a federal lawsuit
against AK alleging environmental violations. If no settlement is
reached, the lawsuit could go to trial in U.S. District Court in
Cincinnati late this year or early next.
AK first publicly warned in March 2001 that the lawsuit, fines
and pollution-control costs might lead to a reconsideration of
continuing the steelmaking or “hot” end of Middletown Works. Closing
down that part of the plant could kill up to 2,000 jobs, the company
But this week, the president of the union representing more than
3,000 Middletown Works workers said he has sought from the company’s
industrial relations staff some hint about the future of hot end.
Ed Shelley, president of Armco Employees Independent Federation,
said Friday he hasn’t heard a response from the company yet.
Shelley’s letter was sent last week in response to a steady
stream of rumors and expressions of concern, he has said.
But no one in state government wants to shut down any AK
operation, Gribben said.
“They (AK) need to be held accountable, but not to such an extent
... that it becomes economically impossible to run the business,”
“We’re of the opinion it’s possible to find that point,” he
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Environmental Protection
Agency said AK’s leaders have never warned government
representatives that pollution controls may force them to kill local
“AK never actually said, ‘We can’t do this because it might shut
us down,”’ Ohio EPA spokeswoman Dina Pierce said.
But McCoy said the company has never said it was unable to abide
by new MAC rules.
“Ultimately, what we’ve said is we may, in the end, choose not to
because it doesn’t make any sense economically,” McCoy said.
The MAC rules will do away with the “bubble exemption” protecting
AK’s blast and basic oxygen furnaces, Pierce said.
The “bubble” allows AK to group sources of pollution together as
long as overall pollution from those sources is kept below a certain
level. One alternative is imposing standards on each individual
source, a stricter measure.
“The blast and BOF (basic oxygen furnace) are the primary sources
of particulate emissions that are causing the nuisance in the
neighborhoods” near the plant, Pierce said.
Shelley said he wants more information about the MAC rules.
“I don’t know if the three years is reasonable or not,” Shelley
U.S. EPA spokesman Bill Omohundro declined to comment, citing the
agency’s lawsuit with AK.