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Flash: Pacific Steel Faces Lawsuit by Environmental Group

By Suzanne LaBarre
Tuesday May 16, 2006

An Oakland-based environmental nonprofit is threatening to sue Pacific Steel Casting in federal court. 

Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) plans to file suit against the West Berkeley steel foundry 60 days from May 5 under the Clean Air Act, according to a statement of intent obtained by the Daily Planet Tuesday.  

CBE, under the legal tutelage of Golden Gate University School of Law Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, alleges that the steel company has, in several instances, exceeded emissions limits and failed to adequately report breaches.  

CBE is filing the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Under the act, plaintiffs may hold Pacific Steel accountable for civil penalties and legal fees. 

Representatives from CBE and Pacific Steel could not be reached for comment. 

Pacific Steel, located on Second Street in West Berkeley, has been the subject of neighborhood complaints for more than two decades. Residents claim the foundry releases a noxious “burning pot-handle” odor and some say it poses a health hazard. 

In December, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) reached a settlement agreement with Pacific Steel detailing measures the foundry must take to come into compliance with environmental regulations, including the construction of a $2 million filter system. Many residents felt the agreement was insufficient, however, and demanded further action.  

A separate small claims lawsuit against Pacific Steel Casting is also in the works, though the litigants, with the help of the Oakland-based nonprofit Neighborhood Solutions, Inc., have not yet filed.