2000 News Releases
U.S. REACHES ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT WITH STEEL MANUFACTURER NUCOR
Release Date: 12/19/2000
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
**FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2000**
DOJ: (202) 514-2008 EPA: (202) 564-9828 TDD: (202) 514-1888
U.S. REACHES ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT
WITH STEEL MANUFACTURER NUCOR
WASHINGTON B Nucor Corporation Inc. will spend nearly $100 million to settle a environmental suit alleging that it failed to control the amount of pollution released from its steel factories in seven states, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department and the EPA. This is the largest and most comprehensive environmental settlement ever with a steel manufacturer.
The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Florence, S.C., will require Nucor to undertake broad environmental improvements at its 14 facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company also will pay a $9 million civil penalty and spend another $ 4 million on continued emissions monitoring of hazardous pollutants and environmental projects to benefit the communities where the factories are located.
"This is one more action by the Clinton Administration to protect the health of families and local communities from threats to their health posed by toxic pollution," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "Today's action sends a signal once again that this Administration will ensure that our environmental laws are properly enforced."
The agreement covers eight Nucor "mini-mills," which produce steel by melting scrap metal in large electric arc furnaces, and six steel fabrication plants, where the final molding and painting of steel products occurs. The settlement resolves allegations, contained in a federal complaint filed along with the agreement, that Nucor violated environmental standards regulating the release of pollutants into the air, water and soil. The complaint alleges that Nucor= s failure to control air pollution resulted in thousands of tons of illegal air emissions each year.
"This settlement will improve air quality for thousands of people who live around these factories," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Environment Division at the Justice Department. "Under this agreement, Nucor will lead the industry by installing an estimated $85 million worth of state-of-the-art pollution controls."
The complaint also alleges that Nucor mismanaged K061 dust, a hazardous waste produced by its steel furnaces. This dust, which contains lead and cadmium, was disposed of improperly at Nucor factories, where it contaminated soil and groundwater. The dust also was discharged illegally through wastewater and storm water.
This settlement has the potential for a reduction of an estimated 6,400 tons of nitrogen oxide and 3,000 tons of volatile organic compounds over eight years. Under the settlement, Nucor will install air pollution control equipment to limit emissions of nitrogen oxides from its arc furnaces and reheat furnaces. The pilot technology called for in the settlement is expected to set a new standard in the steel industry for controlling emissions of nitrogen oxides from furnaces and volatile organic compounds from paint operations. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are key contributors to ground-level ozone, or smog, which can decrease lung function and aggravate respiratory problems.
The terms of the settlement also require Nucor to improve its methods for the K061 dust; sample groundwater and soil at each of its factories; and identify those areas that are contaminated with K061 dust and clean them up under an EPA or state-approved plan.
Four states – Arkansas, Utah, South Carolina and Nebraska – have joined the United States in today’s settlement with Nucor.
"South Carolina is pleased to have the opportunity to work cooperatively with the EPA by participating in this action. We look forward to the emissions reductions that are likely to be achieved by implementation of the requirements of this consent decree," Richard Sharpe, director of compliance management for the Bureau of Air Quality at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The company will pay a $9 million civil penalty to settle allegations that it violated federal environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a hazardous waste statute. The agreement also calls for Nucor to carry out several community-based projects to benefit the environment.
R-193 # # #
December 19, 2000
Background: EPA’s agreement with Nucor addresses alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA). Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Nucor is a major manufacturer of steel and steel products and employs approximately 7,000 personnel. In 1999, the company had net sales of more than $4 billion.
This civil judicial settlement involves eight Nucor steel “minimills” and six steel fabrication facilities in seven states (one Arkansas mill is operated as a joint venture with Yamato Corporation). A minimill produces steel by melting scrap metal in an electric arc furnace and has an associated rolling mill.
Environmental Benefits: This settlement will result in a major advancement in controls of nitrogen oxide (NOx) for the minimill industry and enhance best management practices to avoid releases of electric arc furnace dust, a hazardous waste.
This settlement has the potential for a reduction of an estimated 6,400 tons of nitrogen oxide and 3,000 tons of volatile organic compounds throughout the period of the agreement. Nitrogen oxide emissions contribute to acid rain, nitrogen deposits in lakes and coastal waters, crop damage, and reduced visibility. These pollutants can cause premature mortality, reduced lung function and aggravate existing respiratory problems such asthma. Volatile organic compounds directly contribute to smog, which aggravates respiratory diseases such as asthma, particularly in the young and elderly.
Under the agreement, extensive injunctive relief is estimated at more than $85 million. The settlement also establishes environmentally significant projects for the benefit of local communities near Nucor facilities.
Violations: The government alleges that Nucor violated the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) provisions of the Clean Air Act. In addition, the United States alleges that Nucor illegally disposed of K061 dust at its facilities. A waste product from the electric arc furnaces, K061 dust, is a RCRA-listed hazardous waste. K061dust contains lead and cadmium, both are classified by EPA as probable human carcinogens. This waste mismanagement contributed to National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and industrial stormwater violations of the Clean Water Act, and contaminated soil and groundwater at the Nucor steel mills. Nucor also failed to submit required reports under EPCRA that quantify the amount of various toxic chemicals released at Nucor facilities.
Co-Plaintiffs: The states of Nebraska, Arkansas, Utah and South Carolina have joined in this settlement.
1. Civil Penalty: Nucor has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $9 million.
2. Injunctive Relief ($85 million): Nucor will pilot air pollution control technologies for control of NOx emissions from its electric arc and reheat furnaces. This control technology should set a new standard for NOx control in the steel industry. Nucor also will:
a. Conduct sampling of ground water and soil at all facilities.
b. Conduct sampling of stormwater at all minimills.
c. Identify areas of contamination and clean up that contamination in accordance with an EPA or state-approved plan for each facility.
d. Implement enhancements to its environmental management of electric arc furnace dust, and its process water and storm water to ensure continued compliance with hazardous waste laws and Clean Water Act requirements.
e. Complete all filings under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
3. Environmental Management System and Self Audits: Nucor will conduct extensive environmental audits to discover and correct any remaining environmental problems, and put in place a corporate-wide environmental management system to prevent future violations.
4. Additional Environmental Projects ($4 million):
a. $2 million for community-based supplemental environmental projects. Subject to final Agency approval, at least three of seven projects will be in communities near Nucor facilities. The projects are:
- Wind mill power generation
- Scrap recycling days
- Creation of wetland “buffer zones”
- Emergency equipment donations
- Sanitary sewer line expansion
- Community facility asbestos abatement projects
- Up to $50,000 for community-based recycling education projects
b. $2 million for the installation of state-of-the-art continuous air emission monitoring (CEM) equipment at Nucor’s minimills that will monitor continuously to ensure that the company complies with emission limits for nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxides. The installation of CEM equipment is not required by law, and will add significantly to EPA’s understanding of emissions at Nucor facilities, and throughout the steel industry.
Facilities Subject to this Consent Decree:
Berkeley/Huger Steel minimill
Darlington Steel minimill
Florence Steel fabrication
Armorel (Nucor-Yamato) Steel minimill
Crawfordsville Steel minimill
- St. Joe Steel fabrication
Grapeland Steel fabrication
- Norfolk Steel minimill
- Plymouth Steel minimill
Fort Payne Steel fabrication
(Facilities fall under U.S. EPA Regions 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8)