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Senators hope to help steel industry in area

WHEELING — Just as officials with ACERO Junction plan to kick the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. electric arc furnace into gear, senators from Ohio and West Virginia are working on legislation they believe would lower the cost to produce domestic steel.

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Robert Casey, D-Pa., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced the Steel Industry Preservation Act last week. U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Mike Doyle, D-Pa., introduced companion legislation in the House.

“Liquid steel production helps dispose of hazardous waste and recycle it into a new, innovative product that helps our steel industry compete,” Brown said. “This credit will encourage companies to produce liquid steel, cut down on production costs, and support jobs in our steel industry.”

Steel producers would enjoy a lower cost of producing coke as a result of this credit. This cut the cost of production to make the domestic steel industry more competitive with foreign companies, the senators believe.

Despite the job losses at the former Wheeling-Pitt and Weirton Steel Corp., senators said the steel industry still employs about 150,000 workers across America, while supporting countless other occupations.

“The steel industry is critical to American manufacturing, energy production and national security, and it employs thousands of people in West Virginia and around the country. The strength and competitiveness of this vital industry is crucial to the well-being of our economy, and the Steel Industry Preservation Act will help the domestic steel industry grow and thrive,” Capito said.

The tax credit would be worth $2 per barrel of oil equivalent for the production of steel industry fuel before Jan. 1, 2019. The credit will extend for 10 years from the date the fuel facility enters service. Senators believe this would encourage steel development, while improving the environment.

“With threats of foreign steel companies cheating and undercutting quality American products, it’s more important than ever to make sure we protect the American steel industry and the hard working Ohioans that depend on it,” Portman added.

This legislation comes as officials with ACERO Junction work to reopen the giant mill at Mingo Junction, which has sat cold for nearly eight years because Russian firm OAO Severstal shuttered it in 2009. Jateen Kapoor, a senior management member of ACERO, said officials hope to have portions of the plant up and running this month.

ACERO officials said the new steel operation could ultimately employ as many as 350 workers. The plant includes a hot strip mill and a modern $115 million electric arc furnace that was installed in 2004.

The Mingo facility was part of the former Wheeling-Pitt., which Sewickley, Pa.-based Esmark Inc. acquired in 2006. Severstal closed the Mingo mill in 2009 after purchasing it and the other Wheeling-Pitt. properties from Esmark in 2008.

Severstal later sold the Wheeling-Pitt. assets to RG Steel, which declared bankruptcy soon after. This allowed Buffalo, N.Y.-based Frontier Industrial to purchase the entire Mingo plant — including the electric arc furnace — for $20 million in 2012. Frontier has since demolished most of the older portions of the plant to sell the metal as scrap.

Meanwhile, Frontier has acquired 1,100 acres of former Weirton Steel property. Though the company will remove the blast furnaces and basic oxygen process buildings at Weirton, local officials remain optimistic that this will open the land for new economic development.

(Junkins can be contacted at cjunkins@theintelligencer.net)

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