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United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division
May 6, 2022, Decided; May 6, 2022, Filed
Cause No. 2:22-CV-26-PPS-JEM
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs, the United States, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State Indiana, on behalf of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management jointly request that the Court approve, sign, and enter the proposed Consent Decree in this case. [DE 8.] The consent decree will resolve alleged violations under several environmental statutes relating to a steel manufacturing and finishing facility in Burns Harbor, Indiana, owned and operated by Cleveland-Cliffs Burns Harbor LLC and its corporate parent, Cleveland-Cliffs Steel LLC. [Compl., DE 1.] [*2] The consent decree will also resolve the claims of the citizen groups Environmental Law & Policy Center and Hoosier Environmental Counsel also before me in Environmental Law & Policy Center and Hoosier Environmental Council v. Cleveland-Cliffs Burns Harbor LLC and Cleveland-Cliffs Steel LLC, Case No. 2:19-cv-473 (N.D. Ind filed 12/11/19).
I have carefully reviewed the memorandum in support of the motion to approve the consent decree [DE 9], along with the proposed consent decree itself [DE 9-1], the redlined version of the decree [DE 9-2], and the one public comment submitted by the town of Ogden Dunes [DE 9-3]. The public comment came after the U.S. Department of Justice gave proper notice of the proposed settlement in the Federal Registrar. For the reasons set forth below, I find the consent decree is fair, reasonable, and consistent with the underlying statutes as well as the public interest.
As alleged in the complaint, the Burns Harbor Facility is one of the largest fully integrated steel mills in North America, located in Burns Harbor, Indiana, on Lake Michigan and directly adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park. The Facility was previously owned and operated by [*3] ArcelorMittal, including at the time of the August 2019 spill described herein. But Cleveland-Cliffs completed a full acquisition of ArcelorMittal (including the Facility in Burns Harbor) on December 9, 2020. The Facility uses water for a number of steelmaking and pollution-control operations. The Facility's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES") permit, under the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), authorizes it to discharge treated wastewater, stormwater, and non-contact cooling water from the Facility's outfalls pursuant to enumerated conditions.
The alleged violations are spelled out in detail in the complaint [DE 1 at 12-37] as well as the memorandum in support of the motion to enter consent decree [DE 9 at 3-5]. For present purposes, it is enough to say that in August 2019, the facility suffered a number of equipment and operational failures, which led to millions of extra gallons of high-ammonia and high-cyanide water being discharged into the East Branch of the Little Calumet River, and eventually into Lake Michigan. There were a number of permit violations, numerous fish were killed, and beaches were closed for seven days. Id.
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2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82352 *; 2022 WL 1439213
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and STATE OF INDIANA, Plaintiffs, vs. CLEVELAND-CLIFFS BURNS HARBOR, LLC and CLEVELAND-CLIFFS STEEL LLC, Defendants.
consent decree, environmental, decree, pollution, civil penalty, public interest, approve, parties