Cleveland-Cliffs: An Epitome of Regulatory Vigilance

The U.S. Department of Justice and Michigan's environmental department recently modified a legal agreement with Cleveland-Cliffs
Dearborn Steel Mill
Dearborn Steel MillImage Source: ENS


The U.S. Department of Justice and Michigan's environmental department recently modified a legal agreement with Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Corporation. The changes aim to further regulate air emissions from the company's Dearborn Steel Mill in Michigan. The mill must replace its emission control equipment and pay a penalty, among other measures.


In a recent maneuver emblematic of tenacious regulatory oversight, the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy ("EGLE") amended a Consent Decree with Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Corporation ("Cleveland-Cliffs"). This legal modification aims to address lingering concerns related to environmental pollution stemming from Cleveland-Cliffs' Dearborn, Michigan steel mill.

The original Consent Decree was a culmination of deliberations between the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and EGLE back in 2015. The arrangement aimed to mitigate the steel mill's air pollution, which was purportedly in violation of both federal and state standards. Notwithstanding these measures, the mill's emissions continued to exceed permissible limits, particularly those associated with lead and manganese.

Under the Modified Consent Decree, Cleveland-Cliffs is mandated to overhaul its emission control system, known as an Electrostatic Precipitator ("ESP"). This change signifies a comprehensive approach to reducing visible emissions and meeting regulatory standards. In tandem, the steel mill is compelled to align its operational protocols, such as routine performance tests, with the newly established requirements.

In addition to the technological changes, Cleveland-Cliffs is enjoined to undertake a Supplemental Environmental Project ("SEP"). Developed in collaboration with local citizen groups, the SEP entails supplying portable air purifiers to homes in the surrounding area. This initiative highlights a move towards proactive community engagement, aligning with broader sustainability goals.

Financially speaking, the cost of these obligatory changes is substantial. A penalty of $81,380 has been levied on Cleveland-Cliffs, while the estimated value of the SEP is set at $244,000. The overall expenditure for the additional air pollutant control mechanisms is projected to be $100 million, as estimated by the DOJ.

It's worth noting that the Dearborn Steel Mill occupies approximately 500 acres and is a major producer of steel slabs. The mill's significant footprint makes its compliance with environmental regulations not just a legal necessity but also a social imperative.


The Modified Consent Decree between the DOJ, EGLE, and Cleveland-Cliffs is a significant step towards more robust environmental regulation. By requiring technology upgrades and community involvement, the agreement promises a more sustainable future for the Dearborn community.

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