Ohio EPA's stance has changed

July 28, 2003
Middletown Journal

To the editor:

AK Steel has worked for years to resolve issues with the Ohio EPA and even offered to install new environmental controls ahead of government deadlines. The agency rejected the environmental benefit those controls would have made by continuing to insist on civil penalties. Civil penalties for what? The unintended and unforeseen result of our predecessor's lawful operations near Dicks Creek decades ago?

So where was the environmental outrage and the demand for penalties by the Ohio EPA after heavy rains pushed 3 million gallons of uranium-tainted Fernald processing water into the Great Miami earlier this month? Apparently the government's unintended and unforeseen consequences warrant special treatment.

Here's a question to ponder: If the Ohio EPA is found to have violated procedures, such as manipulating sediment sample data in Dicks Creek to the detriment of the company, shouldn't the Ohio EPA pay millions in civil penalties to AK Steel?

Recently this paper printed a letter from Ohio EPA director Chris Jones saying that settlement with AK Steel is 'impossible' unless AK Steel acquiesces to penalties. The Ohio EPA's official stance was quite different in the face of stinging criticism from Ohio Citizen Action and the Sierra Club about lax enforcement and lack of fines against companies a few years ago. At that time an Ohio EPA spokesperson indicated that the agency didn't see a problem in working with companies to bring about compliance instead of imposing fines and penalties.

Now Ohio EPA feels compelled to assess fines against AK Steel. How ironic if such a stance placates Ohio Citizen Action and the Sierra Club, but stands in the way of actual environmental benefits.

Alan H. McCoy, Vice President, Public Affairs
AK Steel