Steel On the Lakeshore

Lakeshore Public Radio explores the Region’s history with steel – for better and worse. Stories will include features, updates on the struggling industry, and what the future holds for a once dominant industry in Northwest Indiana.

President Trump's tariffs on imported steel aren't the first time the industry has gotten protection from the U.S. government. Not by a long shot. In fact, tariff protection for the industry — which politicians often say is a vital national interest — goes back to the very beginning of the republic.

In his book, Clashing Over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy, Dartmouth professor Douglas Irwin writes that protection for the metal producers began in the 1790s.

A U.S. Department of Commerce document lists Purdue University research as a source for recommending a 24 percent tariff on imported steel.

When Purdue agricultural economics professor Thomas Hertel first saw the Trump Administration’s math, he had to check for himself.

“We quickly re-ran that experiment here and we get the same outcome,” says Hertel.

He created the Global Trade Analysis Project Model, referred to as GTAP, 25 years ago. The free database runs analyses on the impacts of tariffs and today has more than 17,000 users in 170 countries.

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — U.S. Steel will pay a $600,000 civil penalty and $630,000 to reimburse various federal agencies for costs and damages after one of its plants discharged wastewater containing a potentially carcinogenic chemical into a tributary of Lake Michigan, federal and state officials said Monday.

The U.S. Justice Department said those terms are contained in a consent decree filed Monday in federal court in which U.S. Steel promised to take steps to improve its wastewater processing monitoring system to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and Indiana law.

A steel coil is rolled out and slit to various widths for different customers at Mill Steel. (FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik/IPB News)
Lauren Chapman

President Donald Trump’s 25 percent steel and 10 percent aluminum tariffs are designed to make U.S. workers more competitive in the international economy. That could have a big impact on a manufacturing-heavy state like Indiana.

Q&A: Steel & Aluminum Tariffs Start Friday, Will Have Mixed Impact On Indiana

Mar 21, 2018
Barbara Brosher / WTIU/WFIU

New tariffs on imported steel and aluminum are set to take effect Friday, and experts say Indiana will see both benefits and costs.

(THE CONVERSATION) President Donald Trump has been promising to save American manufacturing, and the steel industry in particular, since the presidential campaign. His attempt to follow through on that promise was the March 8  tariff increase on foreign steel and aluminum, arguing that the tariffs were necessary to protect U.S. industries and workers.

Trump joins a long line of presidents, both Republican and Democrat, who have used trade policy in an attempt to create or protect jobs – almost always in vain.

Provided

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson joined Lakeshore Public Radio's Tom Maloney to discuss her upcoming trade mission to Canada, with Governor Eric Holcomb. Mayor Freeman-Wilson also discusses business expansion for the Hoosier state, as well as what's next for Gary following the city's Amazon HQ2 bid.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's a normal weekday at the Port of Vancouver. That means by noon, piles of steel slab cover the work yard at the docks on the Columbia River.

"Steel is tied to about a third of our revenue. So that's pretty substantial," says Abbi Russell, communications manager for the Port of Vancouver in Washington state, the second-largest importer of steel products on the West Coast. In 2017, the port unloaded 712,834 metric tons of steel.

When President Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports this month, he said protecting the two industries was vital for national security.

"We want to build our ships. We want to build our planes. We want to build our military equipment with steel, with aluminum from our country," he said at a March 8 White House news conference.

In other words, the U.S. military should be as self-sufficient as possible, and not rely on other countries to supply the essential materials it needs for defense.

When the phone rings at the Republican Party headquarters in Mahoning County, Ohio, a 77-year-old retired hairdresser and former lifelong Democrat answers.

Connie Kessler is a recent GOP convert with a religious-like zeal to help her hometown elect more local Republicans. Sometimes she answers calls from voters; other times she updates the database — she does the kind of odd jobs she says she used to do for local Democrats.

If Donald Trump hadn't run for president, Kessler says she'd probably still be a Democrat.

Updated at 11:15 a.m. ET

Newly enacted U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel imports have sparked a sharp reaction from around the globe, with several nations warning of an all-out trade war.

President Trump on Thursday made good on a promise to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. The levies are to go into effect in 15 days.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It was a busy day at the White House yesterday because before the Korean summit announcement, there was another big moment. President Trump signed a new set of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the U.S.

Many in the steel industry have been exuberant about President Trump’s plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports. But for those steel manufacturers that rely on imported semi-finished steel slabs to make their final product, it’s a different story.

Here & Now‘s Peter O’Dowd speaks with Brett Guge of California Steel Industries, who says his company would be hurt by the tariffs.

When President Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports last week, he made clear he views a healthy steel industry as vital to the economic and military success of the United States.

But the industry is under threat from steelmakers in competing countries, especially China, which has emerged as by far the largest and most powerful producer on earth.

American steel manufacturers are excited about the Trump administration's plan to levy 25 percent tariffs on imported steel. They say the tariffs will level the playing field against big steel exporters like China.

But in one Michigan county that voted heavily for Trump, people are worried that tariffs could force a big local plant to shut down.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Beer, cars, baseball bats, airplanes: These are a few of the products that could face price hikes when new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum go into effect.

The move announced by the president on Thursday is intended to bolster the domestic steel and aluminum industries. Trump said that imported steel will face tariffs of 25 percent, and aluminum will face tariffs of 10 percent.

President Trump's promise to impose hefty tariffs on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum sent markets around the globe into a tailspin and prompted anger and threats of retaliation from major U.S. trading partners, raising the specter of a full-fledged trade war.

As the Trump administration sees it, U.S. steel and aluminum industries are in crisis, rapidly losing ground to foreign competitors and hemorrhaging jobs along the way.

But proposed import tariffs and quotas have other manufacturers worried that they'll become less competitive in the global marketplace.

How the administration responds to the problem is something Mark Vaughn is watching very closely.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — An environmental group is suing U.S. Steel, alleging that one of the company's northwestern Indiana plants has repeatedly violated its wastewater permit with illegal discharges.

The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Hammond by the Chicago Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation contends that discharge violations are ongoing at U.S. Steel's Portage plant and include an April 2017 spill of a potentially carcinogenic chemical.

Nearly 300 pounds of hexavalent chromium entered a Lake Michigan tributary in that incident.

John J. Watkins / Indiana Economic Digest

EAST CHICAGO - An ArcelorMittal spokeperson says innovation is underway at the Northwest Indiana steel company.  It's for that reason David White, ArcelorMittal Director of Process Research in Global Research and Development, says he believes the future of steel is very bright.

White, who is based at ArcelorMittal's East Chicago location, says the company is currently  making products for the automotive industry, that he says will make automobiles more efficient and safer.  The company is making new products for other industries, outside of automotive.

Heather Eidson / The Times

PORTAGE, Ind. (AP) — Documents show that U.S. Steel failed to test a Lake Michigan tributary for a potentially carcinogenic chemical after a spill from one of the company's plans in northwest Indiana.

The Chicago Tribune reports the incident was the second time this year that the company's Portage plant dumped chromium into Burns Waterway.

Details about the failed testing were in an inspection report posted online Tuesday by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The first stop in our series on the Ports of Indiana was Burns Harbor, an international maritime facility in the heart of steel country. Four hours down Interstate 65, the Port of Jeffersonville is less a port and more a manufacturing hub that happens to be on the Ohio River.

For the next part of our series, Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports Jeffersonville is pushing ahead with expansions to cement its place in the Midwest industrial corridor.

Indiana’s ports move millions of tons each year of the stuff that’s made and used at Midwest factories, including steel, grains and coal. The three ports – one on Lake Michigan and two on the Ohio River – connect Indiana to the national and global economies, and each has to find its own ways to keep up with change.

For the first part of a three-part series, we visited the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor to see how it’s secured its place in the steel industry.

Steelworkers from around the country were in D.C. this week to ask Congress to strengthen its support for the domestic steel industry.

Among them was Billy McCall, who’s worked at U.S. Steel’s huge Gary Works mill for more than 20 years.

He and other United Steelworkers union members talked with federal representatives this week about an ongoing trade investigation into the effect of excess Chinese steel imports on national security.

McCall says that’s about not just defense, but infrastructure and people.

U.S. Steel Chemical Spill Threatens Lake Michigan

Apr 12, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency is responding to a chemical spill, which threatens beaches and the nearest public water intake, from the U.S. Steel facility in Portage.

US Steel reported Tuesday the wastewater spill into Burns Waterway, about 100 yards away from Lake Michigan. In a statement released late Wednesday, U.S. Steel says the spill resulted from an equipment failure and it has idled all production processes at the facility.

A Minnesota steel company is spending almost $9 million dollars to grow its operations at the Port of Indiana in Burns Harbor, as state officials say they’ll prioritize Indiana ports and infrastructure investment in 2017.

Ratner Steel Supply plans to double the size of its four-year-old operations in Portage, just east of Gary.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation says Ratner will add a few dozen jobs and expand its ability to ship steel across the Region.

STEEL ANTITRUST CLAIM THROWN OUT

Nov 21, 2016

A judge has thrown out an antitrust claim against China by U.S. Steel. It’s the latest twist in the Northwest Indiana steel giant’s months-long bid to ban Chinese steel imports:

International Trade Commission administrative judge Dee Lord rejected the Pittsburgh-based company’s antitrust complaint against China. But it’s not the only trade case that U.S. Steel has in the works with the ITC.

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