Delaware Senate OKs Bill Putting CitiSteel Mill In Danger Of Closing
Delaware Senate OKs bill putting CitiSteel mill in danger of closing
PITTSBURGH--The Delaware State Senate last week, by an 11-10 margin, approved a bipartisan bill that by the end of the year could close CitiSteel Inc., the Claymont plate mill that is owned by an investment arm of the Chinese government.
However, the fate of the bill is still in question because the Senate passed the measure on the last day of the General Assembly's legislative session before the state House could vote on it. Another lawmaking session is not schedule for six months, after the proposed closure of the mill, noted Norman Hayman, staff representative for United Steelworkers District 7, Philadelphia, which covers the Claymont mill.
The proposal approved last week by the Senate would revoke on Jan. 1 CitiSteel's permit to operate in an environmentally sensitive coastal zone because the producer allegedly reneged on a promise to hire former workers of Phoenix Steel Corp., the mill's predecessor.
Last year CitiSteel, which is owned by China International Trust & Investment Corp., received a state exemption to reopen the plate mill after it reportedly promised the legislature that it would rehire former Phoenix workers, members of the USW.
Under the state's Coastal Zone Act, which regulates industrial activity along the Delaware coast, CitiSteel needed the exemption to restart the mill. The law allows existing industrial facilities to remain in operation. However, if plants were closed for more than a year--as was the case with the plate mill--they lose their exempt status (AMM, June 22).
The Senate bill has been sent to the House. While the next session is scheduled for six months away, Hayman said, "There's talk the governor will call a special session in the fall."
Hayman noted that he is considering lobbying Gov. Mike Castle to call a special session of the Republican-controlled state House to consider the bill, where the battle may be somewhat more difficult.
"Now we have to work on the House. It's Republican-controlled but some of the representatives historically have been pretty good friends of labor," he said.
House members also are likely to feel the lobbying efforts of CitiSteel. James Hasson, president of the mill, said yesterday, "From our standpoint, we certainly intend to talk to the appropriate people in the House and get them to understand our hiring practices are in line with our commitment from day one."
If a special session is not called to address the bill before a new General Assembly convenes, the bill will not automatically die. But it will need to be amended to adjust the proposed Jan. 1 closing date.
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