Metro Lexus



Environmentalists ask to join lawsuit

By TERRY KINNEY
The Associated Press
1/7/02 6:09 PM

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Two national environmentalist groups asked a federal judge on Monday to let them join as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Middletown-based AK Steel.

The Sierra Club and the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council asked U.S. District Judge Herman Weber to let them join the federal government and the state in suing for alleged pollution violations at the company's Middletown Works.

Weber said he was concerned that more plaintiffs would mean more delays in litigation that has been languishing since June 2000.

"I don't want another 150 causes of action," Weber said.

Steve Crandall, a San Luis Obispo, Calif., attorney representing the environmentalist groups, said he was considering one additional claim.

"There is one that is under exploration," Crandall said. "I am not at liberty to say what it is."

Weber did not say when he would rule on the motion.

Federal regulators sued AK Steel, alleging that the steelmaker violated clean-air, clean-water and hazardous waste disposal laws.

Weber, who has dismissed one of the government's clean-air claims, noted that the Sierra Club has been critical of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for some time.

"How can I expect cooperation between the Sierra Club and the Ohio EPA?" Weber asked.

"We may not always be arm-in-arm with the United States and the state of Ohio, but we will do our best to move this case forward," Crandall said.

Cincinnati attorney Paul Casper Jr., representing AK Steel, argued that the groups should not be allowed to intervene as plaintiffs because they waited more than a year and a half before seeking to lend their weight to the case.

"They saw AK Steel not roll over and play dead but defend this case vigorously," Casper said.

And he told Weber that the motion to intervene amounts to "piling on" -- making AK Steel defend itself against four plaintiffs instead of two.

"We will have serious discovery disputes if the Sierra Club and the NRDC are allowed in this case," Casper said.

AK Steel makes flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steel for the automotive, appliance, construction and manufacturing markets. The company employs about 11,200 workers at plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana.

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On the Net:

AK Steel: http://www.aksteel.com

Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org

Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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