Abrams Environmental Law Clinic Client Celebrates Achievements in Long-running Suit

Surfrider Celebrates Achievements in U.S. Steel Campaign

The Surfrider Foundation, including our Chicago Chapter, is celebrating the achievements of our campaign and lawsuit to hold U. S. Steel accountable for polluting Lake Michigan. More than four years ago, in January 2018, Surfrider filed our lawsuit against the company for its discharge of nearly 300 pounds of toxic hexavalent chromium into Lake Michigan and other clean water violations adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park and close to a popular surfing location. On September 23, the court dismissed our ongoing lawsuit. While Surfrider Foundation is disappointed and disagrees with the court’s most recent ruling, particularly in light of U.S. Steel’s continued permit violations after it fully implemented the governments’ consent decree, the dismissal comes only after our lawsuit prompted state and federal regulators to file a second lawsuit, in which Surfrider and the City of Chicago joined as intervenors to protect our interests in clean water. The Court ultimately approved a settlement between environmental regulators and U. S. Steel, but it did so only after the regulators and U. S. Steel had improved the initial proposed settlement along the lines of input from Surfrider and the City. We achieved improvements in the form of a new water quality monitoring project and improved public notification requirements in order to better inform the public of health concerns in the event of water pollution.  

In November 2017, Surfrider Foundation sent a notice of intent to sue U. S. Steel for Clean Water Act violations at its Portage, Indiana plant. The notice stated that the company had repeatedly violated permit limits related to toxic discharges, such as for chromium, had discolored nearby waters by these discharges, and had failed to implement necessary operations and maintenance practices to prevent these and other kinds of illegal discharges. In January 2018, Surfrider filed its lawsuit against U. S. Steel for these violations in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. In March 2018, U. S. Steel answered Surfrider’s complaint and admitted to fifty-four of the violations. In April 2018, the United States and the State of Indiana filed their own complaint against U. S. Steel, including a proposed settlement agreement, called a consent decree.

Read more at Surfrider Foundation