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  Sunday, June 22, 2003


AK says state out to get it


The Issue:

AK Steel Chairman Richard Wardrop accused Ohio Gov. Bob Taft of conspiring with the Ohio EPA to damage the firm and its employees.

Our Opinion:

The company should play by the EPA's rules, like everybody else, and can't expect much sympathy in Mansfield after locking out area Steelworkers for more than three years.

AK Steel had a legitimate complaint against Gov. Bob Taft for visiting an AK customer in Mexico accompanied by an AK competitor.

But AK stepped way out of bounds when company officials tried to suggest Taft was part of a conspiracy to wage war against the firm and its employees.

AK Chairman Richard Wardrop made these charges against Taft in an ad last week in the News Journal and other Ohio newspapers. At issue is a three-year-old lawsuit between AK and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency over pollution controls at AK's Middletown plant.

Wardrop said Taft favors other steelmakers and allows unfair financial pressure on AK through EPA enforcement. Wardrop said AK is losing millions of dollars while Taft helps other steelmakers, even some in other states.

To his credit, Taft apologized for the visit to the Mexican AK customer, saying he was not aware of the relationship. The governor and his staff obviously need to be more careful and prepared on such high-profile activities.

But it is difficult to be sympathetic with AK when it claims Taft's behavior amounts to "waging war" on AK employees and their families. That claim carries no weight in Mansfield, where Steelworkers and their families were locked out of work for more than three years by AK.

We agree with Taft's assessment AK appears to be positioning itself to blame the state for layoffs or other changes the company may be contemplating.

We don't know what all of the issues are in the EPA lawsuit, but it doesn't seem fair to all of the Ohio manufacturers who have found ways to comply with pollution standards for AK to get a special break.

The Wardrop letter is another example of the hard-nosed bullying tactics AK seems to employ to get what it wants. The state should give the company ample time, low-interest loans and other technical assistance to comply with pollution standards while protecting its business.

But in the end, the firm must play by the rules just like everyone else.

Originally published Sunday, June 22, 2003

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