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Dearborn steel plant agreement resolves violations, requires better pollution control and monitoring to protect residents

Michigan EGLE today applauded a modification to a 2015 consent decree between the United States, the State of Michigan and the Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Corporation (formerly AK Steel) to resolve Clean Air Act violations at the company’s Dearborn, Michigan steel manufacturing plant. The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the changes earlier today. The facility is located in an area of the state with environmental justice concerns and has a history of noncompliance.

The decree requires the Dearborn plant to install an entirely new air pollution control technology and conduct regular testing of it, provide nearby homeowners with air purifiers, and assesses fines for past violations.

“These requirements will help ensure that the facility meets its obligations to the community, and that residents are better protected from the facility’s air emissions,” said Phil Roos, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

The original 2015 consent decree included measures to address visible air emissions from the plant. Because these measures failed to bring the plant into full Clean Air Act compliance, the modification requires Cleveland-Cliffs to undertake additional extensive measures at a cost of over $100 million, which are expected to reduce visible emissions from the plant, as well as curtail emissions of manganese and lead. In anticipation of the agreement, Cleveland-Cliffs has already performed much of the required work.

“The agreement will ensure that Cleveland-Cliffs’ steel manufacturing plant in Dearborn operates in compliance with federal and state air pollution requirements,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “This modification will result in better air quality for Dearborn residents around the plant, who have been disproportionately burdened by pollution.”

The modification lodged today requires replacement of the plant’s electrostatic precipitator (ESP) an air emissions control device that removes particulate matter from exhaust gases that stem from the plant’s operations and thereby controls visible emissions. It also requires routine testing of the new ESP to assure compliance with applicable emission limits, certain operational parameters, and regular monitoring for visible emissions. The company has installed and is operating the new ESP. Testing is already being done on the unit.

The company will also pay a civil penalty of $81,380 to the State of Michigan for violating the state permit’s opacity, lead and manganese limits. Additionally, Cleveland-Cliffs will implement a state-law supplemental environmental project in which nearby residents will receive home air purifiers, at an estimated cost of $244,000.

“Collaborating with residents on the supplemental environmental project was very important to our group. We know that having these filters in residents’ homes will make their indoor air quality better and that was a vital part of this project,” said Samra’a Luqman, board member of the Concerned Residents of South Dearborn.

Read more about the original settlement and find more detailed information about this modification in the Air Quality Enforcement Factsheet

The Consent Decree Modification is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. It will be available for viewing and you can find information on how to submit comments at:

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An online public meeting will be held on November 8, 2023. The meeting will be an opportunity for community members to find out more about the enforcement action as well as to ask questions.

Meeting Details:

  • Join online via computer: pre-register any time or join online at 6 p.m. November 8.
  • Call in to the meeting: 636-651-3142 and use conference code 374288.
Information about past air quality inspections and violations can be found on EGLE’s Cleveland-Cliff’s source information page.

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