Settlement Announced in Indiana Natural Resources Damages Claim
Agreement Should Accelerate Restoration of Valuable Natural Resources and Habitats Near Lake Michigan
The East Branch of the Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor Canal System are another step closer to environmental restoration thanks to an historic agreement that should expedite work on the area's valuable natural resources and habitats. The agreement settles a natural resources damages claim brought by the state of Indiana and two federal agencies against a number of companies whose operations allegedly had an adverse effect on the area's environment. The settlement announced today involves eight of those companies.
Indiana Gov. Joseph Kernan joined officials from the Indiana Departments of Environmental Management and Natural Resources and the U.S. Departments of Interior, Commerce and Justice to announce the agreement during a press conference held today at the Marquette Park Pavilion in Gary. Representatives from a coalition of eight companies that responded to the original claim and worked with state and federal agencies to craft the settlement also attended the press conference.
The companies that comprise the coalition include Atlantic Richfield Company (and ARCO Environmental Remediation, L.L.C.), BP Products North America, Inc., DuPont, ExxonMobil Corporation, GATX Corporation, Georgia- Pacific Corporation, Ispat Inland Inc., and United States Steel Corporation.
Under the terms of the settlement, the coalition companies will pay a total of $53,653,000 in restoration costs to the U.S. Department of Interior's Natural Resource Damage and Assessment Fund. The money will be used for projects intended to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of natural resources in the East Branch of the Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor Canal riparian ecosystem. The Indiana Departments of Environmental Management and Natural Resources and the U.S. Departments of Interior and Commerce -- the public trustees -- will be responsible for planning and implementing the restoration activities. The coalition companies will also reimburse $2.7 million to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Department of Interior for the natural resource damage assessment work.
The settlement also calls for four of the coalition companies to donate approximately 233 acres of land to trustee agencies or entities approved by the public trustees. The properties, which are located on or near the East Branch of the Grand Calumet River, are considered critical habitats for local flora and fauna. The settlement contemplates the public trustees will use appropriate preservation and conservation measures to enhance and maintain the habitats and to restrict future development activities on the donated lands. The Indiana chapter of the Nature Conservancy was instrumental in identifying and valuing the ecological significance of some of the donated lands.
Restoration of the Grand Calumet River is already under way. In 2002, U.S. Steel began removing non-native sediment from the initial five-mile segment of the East Branch of the Grand Calumet River. That dredging project is nearing completion.
Charles R. McElwee, II, lead attorney for the coalition companies, said that the settlement underscores the companies' continuing commitment to work with the public sector to resolve matters that have the potential to adversely impact our nation's environment.
"From the outset, our objective was to focus our efforts on developing a solution that would restore the area's environment and avoid a prolonged, complicated and expensive legal proceeding," McElwee said. "We believe the settlement accomplishes that objective and represents a victory for everyone associated with this matter, particularly the residents of northwestern Indiana who should benefit from a more stable and vibrant natural environment in and around the East Branch of the Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor Canal System."
SOURCE: United States Steel Corporation
CONTACT: Charles R. McElwee, II, Lead Counsel for the Companies, of
Web site: http://www.ussteel.com/
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