Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

United States v. Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.

Citation: 19 ELR 20371
No. No. 88-3447, 866 F.2d 57/28 ERC 1369/(3d Cir., 10/12/1988)

The court holds that a consent decree filed to bring a steel plant into compliance with the Clean Air Act may not be modified based on the plant's sale to new owners or based on the economic needs of the steel industry. In 1979, the district court had approved a consent decree that, after several amendments, required either that air pollution control equipment be installed at the plant by June 30, 1986, or that the plant be shut down at that time. When the air pollution control equipment was not installed by June 30, 1986, the plant was shut down and was subsequently sold. Clean Air Act consent decrees cannot be amended on economic or financial grounds, and to be amended at all grievous wrongs and unforeseen circumstances are required. Although the steel plant's buyer did not participate in the consent decree, the decree by its terms applies to successors, and the buyer was aware of the decree when it purchased the plant. All of the considerations asserted to amend the decree are financial, relating either to the corporations involved or the local economy generally. However, removal of pollutants from the air is a more compelling public interest than economic interests.

[Decisions in litigation concerning other manufacturing plants covered by the same consent decree appear at 17 ELR 20672 and 20750.]

Counsel for Appellant
Jacques B. Gelin
Land and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 23795, L'Enfant Plaza Station, Washington DC 20026
(202) 633-2762

James M. Baker, Senior Ass't Regional Counsel
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region III
841 Chestnut St., Philadelphia PA 19104
(215) 597-9800

Counsel for Appellees
Lawrence A. Demase, Edward Gerjuoy
Rose, Schmidt, Hasley & DiSalle
900 Oliver Bldg., Pittsburgh PA 15222
(412) 355-8600

Before Hutchinson and Cowen, JJ.