Rust Belt Senators Cloud EPA Effort To Clean Up Steel Mills

"Steel towns will see some reductions in toxic pollution from new regulations — but not as much as they’d hoped."

"In early March, a small group of Democratic senators from the Rust Belt sent President Joe Biden an urgent letter. They began by extolling the benefits of two of the Biden administration’s biggest achievements, the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, calling them “historic investments in our nation’s infrastructure” that will ring in a brighter future for American manufacturing. But there was something, they cautioned, that threatened to hamper this progress: the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned regulations for integrated iron and steel mills, proposed last July and nearing a court-ordered deadline.

“We are concerned that the EPA’s proposed integrated steel rules will do what foreign competitors have thus far been unable to do: deter and diminish continued American investment in improving our steel industry,” wrote the five senators, among them Joe Manchin of West Virginia and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. They claimed the regulations would cost companies billions, enough to force widespread layoffs, despite the EPA’s estimate of $7.1 million in costs for the two companies, U.S. Steel and Cleveland-Cliffs, that own all 10 of the country’s steel mills.

Shortly after the senators sent off the letter, the EPA unveiled its final rule, the first time the agency has ever attempted to cut emissions from leaks and equipment malfunctions at steel mills. The EPA expects the new regulations will cut particle pollution by 473 tons every year. But the final rule is weaker than the one it proposed in 2023. Whereas the agency had originally planned to slash steel mills’ toxic emissions by 79 tons per year, a 15 percent decrease overall, the final version is expected to cut emissions by 64 tons each year. The EPA also dropped a proposed limit on the thickness of the smoke emanating from mills’ doors and roof vents."

Lylla Younes reports for Grist April 2, 2024.

Source: Grist, 04/02/2024