NEW YORK Federal
environmental laws are hurting iron ore miner Cliffs Natural
Resources Inc., particularly as uncertainty over new
regulations has forced it to take a second look at new U.S.
investments, the companys top executive said.
"I dont think anyone is
trying to avoid good environmental regulation. But give us a
clear and transparent process. Dont change the rules
after many years of work," Joseph A. Carrabba, chairman,
president and chief executive officer of Cleveland-based
Cliffs, told AMM in an interview. "We need more
transparency in the science of how the rules and regulations
work. Were just not getting access to that."
Carrabba testified at a
Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee hearing March 21
in Washington, where he said permitting processes are too
burdensome, and federal and state agencies arent working
in tandem to reduce environmental impacts.
The company, for example, said
last month that it would have had to spend $400 million to
bring its operations into compliance with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agencys new haze regulations,
announced last fall, according to media reports. It has faced
continued pressure on the haze issue, particularly at its
United Taconite LLC iron ore facility in Forbes, Minn.
(amm.com, Oct. 20, 2010).
"In northern Minnesota, we had
an issue with regional haze. We worked to drop regional haze
dramatically, and after two years of work and working very hard
with the (regional) agencies, we finally came to an agreement
on what to do with regional haze," Carrabba said. "Then, the
(federal) EPA popped in and said, Thats not
right and Were going to stick our nose into
it. Were going to unwind all this work youve
Cliffs has been forced to think
twice about investing in the region as a result of such
uncertainty and ever-changing regulations, he said.
"We had to pause new
investments. Any of the investment opportunities we had on the
board for northern Minnesota, we had to take a pause and figure
out what this economically means," Carrabba said.
Cliffs isnt looking to
embark on any major U.S. expansion projects in the coming year.
While the company has about $1 billion in capital to spend
across the board this year, it has slated around $300 million
of that in an effort to keep its U.S. operations up and running
and in compliance with environmental regulations.
Carrabbawhose term as
American Iron and Steel Institute chairman ends in
Mayalso said that action against currency manipulation
remains a top priority this year. Other uncertainties that
could hurt U.S. steelmakers include a "cumbersome" tax system,
ambiguities within the Affordable Care Act, and a lack of
leadership at the U.S. Trade Representatives office and
Commerce Department, where the top posts remain vacant.
"We want balanced trade.
Were not protectionist," he said. "We just want
appropriate relief with currency trade laws and the enforcement
of our existing trade laws."