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State not about to walk away from fines against AK

By Thomas Gnau

Ohio Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery said Thursday her lawyers have

tried "desperately" to work with AK Steel Corp. to resolve a decade of

environmental complaints about the company.

To no avail, she said.

"A lot of aggressive positions are being taken, probably on both sides,"

Montgomery said in a meeting with The Journal's editorial board.

AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy says AK has a right to

aggressively defend itself.

On behalf of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Montgomery's office0oined a federal lawsuit against the Middletown steelmaker filed in June

2000 in Cincinnati's U.S. District Court. Montgomery said her office cannot

walk away from the suit without fines against AK.

The stance confirms the view of AK's principals that Montgomery's office is

more interested in fines than resolution, McCoy said.

000200000615000003CE60F,When AK's attorneys have asked why, state officials

are "unable to articulate a reason," he said.

AK has said the government wants punitive fines; company leaders have also

said fines and environmental compliance costs may force them to look at

whether they can afford to make steel in Middletown, where steel has been

made for more than a century. AK has about 4,000 employees in Middletown,

more than 11,000 in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

"One person's punitive fine is another person's legitimate fine," Montgomery

said.

But determining how fines are paid, she added, is "open to negotiation."

Montgomery said it's possible to end the suit in a way that lets AK continue

making steel in Ohio.

The suit was in part a response to complaints dating back to 1991 about "dust

and debris" drifting from the Middletown Works, Montgomery said. She said8er office reached a point where it could not "in good conscience not file

this lawsuit."

When her office told the U.S. Justice Department that a lawsuit was imminent,

Montgomery said, federal officials said: "Wait. Let us take the lead."

The federal government is the lead agency in the lawsuit, she said. While the

state can settle separately in the lawsuit, the federal government can

continue with its own suit, she said.

Montgomery was elected in 1994, the same year AK went public from a five-year

partnership between part of Armco and Kawasaki Steel Corp. Two years ago, AK

bought Armco. The company has reported a net loss of $16 million as of Sept.

30 this year.

 

   


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