Judge splits verdict in EPA case against U.S. Steel
Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com August 21, 2013 5:14PM
Updated: September 23, 2013 2:41PM
The federal government can’t seek to fine U.S. Steel for violations it claims the company made more than 20 years ago to its Gary Works plant, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, but it can seek to force the company to install new controls for pollutants.
U.S. District Judge Philip Simon said in his order that he agreed with U.S. Steel that the Environmental Protection Agency had waited far too long to file for penalties when the statute of limitations is five years.
The alleged violation took place in 1990 when U.S. Steel modified the inside of Blast Furnace No. 4. The EPA claimed in its lawsuit against U.S. Steel, filed last year, that the modification constituted a major change, which would have required U.S. Steel to get a permit for the construction work. The company never did.
Part of the permitting process would have required the company to install what’s called the best available control technology for pollutants. Violating this process can lead to a company being fined $37,500 for each day it does so.
However, Simon ruled that the violation was a one-time incident, instead of agreeing with the federal government that U.S. Steel continued to violate the permit each day it operated without going through the proper steps.
That means that trying to see penalties 23 years after the fact isn’t allowed by law, he ruled.
The statute of limitations applies only to penalties, however, so Simon ruled that the EPA could move forward with its claim that U.S. Steel must go through the proper steps now, which could involve installing best available control technology.