Feds sue U.S. Steel Gary Works, claiming air quality violations
By Teresa Auch Schultz Sun-Times Mediafirstname.lastname@example.org August 2, 2012 5:00PM
Aerial shot of the U.S. Steel Gary Works. (file photo)
Updated: September 4, 2012 6:20AM
U.S. Steel violated the Clean Air Act numerous times — in one case, more than 15,000 times — at its Gary Works facility and two other plants in Michigan and Illinois, according to a lawsuit filed by the federal government Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond.
The suit said that from 2008 through 2011, three violation notices have been sent to the Gary Works plant, two to the Great Lakes Works facility in Ecorse, Mich., and one to the Granite City Works facility in Granite City, Ill.
Jill E. Ritchie, director of public policy and governmental affairs for U.S. Steel, said in a statement that the claims made in the lawsuit are “inaccurate and misleading.”
The suit, which also names the state of Indiana as a plaintiff, focused on three areas of violations for the Gary plant. The first focused on work that was done to the Blast Furnace No. 4 in 1990. According to the lawsuit, the project was considered a major change that resulted in “significant” increased emissions of particle matter, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.
But the company never applied for permits and reviews that would guarantee it was using technology to control the release of the pollutants, the suit said, and never actually installed the technology.
The second claim said the Gary Works site has violated visible opacity rules of air emissions more than 15,000 times. Three of the coke battery underfire stacks at the Gary Works appear to be by far the biggest violators. The lawsuit said U.S. Steel reported these three stacks violated opacity limits 15,113 times for a total of 63 full days from August 2006 to December 2007.
The stacks are not supposed to have an opacity level of more than 20 percent for an average of six minutes, according to the suit.
Other sources at the Gary Works site had anywhere from one to 20 visible opacity violations, the suit says.
Finally, the suit claimed the Gary Works violated another permit by not reporting everything it was supposed to, including the changes made to Blast Furnace No. 4.
U.S. Steel potentially faces millions of dollars in fines. The violations range anywhere from $25,000 to $37,500 per day.
The government is asking that U.S. Steel apply for the correct permits using all the correct information and that it install the best technology to deal with the pollutants.
But Ritchie said the issues were taken care of years ago and that the company has already spent millions of dollars to fix them.
She said all the work on Blast Furnace No. 4 was performed with the proper reviews, approvals and permits.
“U.S. Steel will vigorously defend this action and its substantial financial investment in environmental controls and its commitment to protecting the environment in Indiana and elsewhere,” she said.