President Carter's call for a partnership between industry and government has not overcome a deadlock between the steel industry and the Environmental Protection Agency over the final steps in meeting federal clean air and water pollution control requirements.
Throughout the summer, officials of major steel companies, the EPA and the United Steelworkers of America have been meeting to consider possible compromises that would reduce the industry's costs for air and water cleanup without violating environmental regulations.
These negotiations have been part of a larger effort by industry, labor and the government to produce a national policy for strengthening the industry, which has been battered by imports, meager profits, plant closings and layoffs. w
Commerce Secretary Philip M. Klutznick, who heads the steel industry committee, hopes to submit the group's recommendations to the White House by next week.
But the report is not expected to include a significant compromise on the industry's environmental regulation, administration sources said. "There's been just about zero progress," said George A. Stinson, chairman of National Steel Co., in an interview, speaking of the negotiations between the industry and EPA. "They're at loggerheads," added a Labor Department official who participates in the steel committee meetings.
The EPA officials, the current enthusiasm for a consensus "industrial policy" doesn't change the agency's mandate to enforce the federal clean air and water laws. EPA Administrator Douglas M. Costle and Klutznick reportedly still are discussing what compromises, if any, EPA might make as a contribution to a Carter administration steel industry policy. Some officials predicted that Klutznick's report would have to go forward without a resolution of the environmental issues.
Industry contends it already has gone far in meeting the air and water quality requirements set by Congress and can't afford to go any farther.
A industry-commissioned study by the Arthur D. Little Inc. consulting firm, to be released later this month, estimates that 96 percent of the potential particulate pollution from steel plants has been controlled, at a cost of $4.3 billion.
If Epa enforces its existing Clean Air Act regulations, the industry would have to invest another $1.2 billion by 1982 in removing an additional 1 percent of the potential steel plant particulate pollution, the A.D. Little study reports.
Similarly, the industry says it spent $3.4 billion to achieve a 91 percent average reduction in water pollutants regulated by EPA. Meeting existing EPA rules would require an investment of $2.4 billion to raise the standard to 96 percent by the end of 1984.
The additional investments would produce an undetectable improvement in air and water quality, the Little study says, but the $3.6 billion cost will leave that much less to invest in modernizing aging steel plants.
As a short-range remedy for its financial problems, the industry is pushing the EPA to grant a two-year suspension on further investments in environmental controls.
The industry also is pressing the EPA to permit steel companies to control wind-blown dust from plants by spraying water on coal piles and paving roads, rather than requiring them to invest in much-more-costly filters and traps to catch the remaining emissions from steel-making operations.
The EPA is reviewing such as trade-off experiment being conducted at Armco Inc.'s Middletwone, Ohio, steel plant, but the industry complains that the EPA is sticking to its requirements for the costlier clean-up process, even though the results of the Armco experiment aren't yet in.
Richard D. Wilson, the EPA's associate director for enforcement, says the industry is already five years behind schedule in meeting the EPA's primary air quality standards, adopted to protect public health. Moreover, the agency believes that the last step -- the removal of the last 5 percent or 6 percent of the particulate emissions -- is vital because these include the smallest emissions that may represent the most serious threat to human health.
A continuing impasse on environmental regulation would not doom the effort to produce a national steel industry policy, administration officials said, but it would demonstrate how hard the effort is.