AK Steel settles coke plant complaints, kicks off coal production

AK Steel (NYSE: AKS) has reached an agreement to settle an action brought on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state of Kentucky under the Clean Air Act and other statutes and regulations with respect to AK Steel’s former Ashland, Ky., coke plant.

The agreement was reached without admission of the alleged violations by AK Steel, the Ohio-based steel producer said Aug. 21. At this facility, metallurgical coal was baked into coke for the steel production process.

In connection with the settlement, AK Steel has agreed to undertake two supplemental environmental projects at its Ashland Works steel plant to help reduce air emissions. The estimated cost of the supplemental projects is approximately $2m. In addition, AK Steel will pay civil penalties of $1,625,000 to the U.S. and $25,000 to Kentucky.

AK Steel said that it appreciates the cooperation of Kentucky during the settlement negotiation process that enabled a portion of AK Steel’s assessed penalty to be applied to environmental improvement projects at the Ashland Works.

AK Steel permanently closed the Ashland coke plant in 2011 because it was no longer cost competitive due to increased maintenance and increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Corporate-wide, from 2003 through the end of 2012, AK Steel said it spent about $85m on environmental-related capital projects and more than $1.1bn to operate and maintain its environmental controls.

AK Steel produces flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steels, primarily for automotive, infrastructure and manufacturing, construction and electrical power generation and distribution markets. AK Coal Resources, a wholly-owned subsidiary, controls and is developing metallurgical coal reserves in Somerset County, Pa.

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows two operations, both in Somerset County, listed under AK Coal Resources. Both are classified as active by MSHA. One is the Coal Innovations #1 processing facility, the MSHA registration for which was transferred last year from Coal Innovations LLC. Initially listed with MSHA on Jan. 4 was the North Fork deep mine, which got a production start in the second quarter and produced 345 tons during that quarter.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.