Tell the EPA to strengthen steel mill regulations


Supporters spoke up in this action

Delivery to Environmental Protection Agency

Action ended on September 29, 2023

What Happens Next

Thank you to all who took action! We’re grateful for your support.

What Was At Stake

Steel production is highly polluting. The 10 steel mills operating in the United States release more than 500 tons of toxic metals into the air of neighboring communities each year. Despite the need for stronger protections, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a weak rule regulating steel mill emissions. Urge the EPA to strengthen this rule today.

Integrated iron and steel mills (referred to as “steel mills”) are industrial plants that process iron ore in huge blast furnaces to make steel. These steel mills release huge quantities of arsenic, chromium, lead, and other hazardous air pollutants into the air that nearby communities breathe. In fact, these mills are the worst source of lead emissions in the United States — a potent neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure.

Everyone is impacted by the production of steel but especially people living near these facilities and those who work in the steel mills. Exposure to these types of polluting emissions increases the risk of cardiovascular mortality and lung disease.

The EPA proposed weak amendments to its existing decades-old rule to reduce toxic air emissions from steel mills. This proposal fails to protect people living near the facilities because, by EPA’s own account, it requires no reductions at all in some of the most toxic pollution that steel mills emit. In addition, it allows steel mills to continue emitting hundreds of tons of toxic metals, including arsenic, chromium, and lead.

Steel mills also emit large quantities of toxic organic chemicals, including dioxins, as well as acid gases, including hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, and chlorine gas. Short term exposure to high levels of dioxin can cause skin lesions and alter liver function. Long term exposure to even tiny amounts dioxins is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the hormone system, and reproductive functions. EPA has identified dioxin as a probable human carcinogen. The proposed rule, however, does nothing to reduce these emissions.

These amendments, as they stand, would reduce just 15% of the toxic emissions and does not come close to providing adequate protection for people living near steel mills. Tell the EPA to strengthen this rule today.

Aerial view of U.S. Steel’s Gary Works steel mill (Photo Credit: The Times of Northwest Indiana)
Aerial view of U.S. Steel’s Gary Works steel mill. (The Times of Northwest Indiana)

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention. Read more.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue.

Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court. Read more.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment. Read more.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.