By Meredith Colias-Pete
The U.S. government has filed a request in federal court to advance a plan costing U.S. Steel $1.8 million for a 2017 toxic spill into Burns Waterway.
The motion to revise its consent decree, or settlement plan, calls for $1.2 million in fines, tighter reporting, and $600,000 for a three-year shoreline water monitoring project, according to filings in the U.S. District Court in Hammond.
The motion was filed on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Attorneys from the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago threatened to sue U.S. Steel on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation. Federal and state regulators ended up negotiating a legal settlement with the company, but Surfrider’s lawyers, joined by the Chicago Law Department, have urged a federal judge to crack down harder on U.S. Steel.
Mark Templeton, director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, said they are still reading through the legal filing and are considering whether to oppose the government’s revised plan.
“Our initial review causes us to be concerned that the revised proposed consent decree does not address sufficiently the underlying causes of the illegal and harmful discharges,” he wrote in a statement.
“In the proposed revised consent decree, the governments do not identify any additional improvements to the technical or operational requirements. We are also extremely disappointed that the governments did not impose a higher penalty on U.S. Steel to reflect the severity of the violations and to deter future misconduct by U.S. Steel and other facilities in Northwest Indiana,” Templeton said.
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