Two environmental groups made good on their promise to sue steelmaker ArcelorMittal on Wednesday. They say the company hasn’t been held accountable for more than 100 violations at its northwest Indiana facility — including a chemical spill that killed more than 3,000 fish in August.
The plaintiffs want the company to pay for past violations and to make repairs to the plant so its in compliance.
In October, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Hoosier Environmental Council sent a 60-day notice of their plans to sue to ArcelorMittal as well as state and federal environmental agencies.
ELPC executive director Howard Learner is the attorney representing the plaintiffs. He says the groups had hoped the company would have contacted them shortly after filing the notice.
“Call us — or the plaintiffs — up and say, ‘Let’s see what we can work out.’ That didn’t happen here,” he says.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency also could have filed their own suits against ArcelorMittal. But Learner says that didn't happen either.
ArcelorMittal released the following statements Thursday afternoon:
- ArcelorMittal has not been served yet but the company was aware of plaintiff’s intent to sue.
- ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor has two permits which impose monitoring requirements and establish certain limits for pollutants regulated under those permits. Any exceedances of limits or other violations of permit requirements are reported to the state water authority. We believe that it is the information contained in our regulatory reporting that is being referenced in the Environmental Law and Poverty Center (ELPC) Notice of Intent to sue ArcelorMittal under the Clean Water Act.
- While any instance of non-compliance is concerning, we do not believe that the reported non-compliance with the permit requirements in any way reflect systemic issues. Any instances of non-compliance are investigated, and appropriate actions are taken in response. Governmental authorities are tasked with responding to permit compliance as they deem appropriate in response to the reported information.
- While the company is unable to comment on potential litigation, we remain focused on maintaining compliance and working with regulatory authorities.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.