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Settlement agreement reached in a class-action lawsuit against Voestalpine

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Posted at 3:40 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 06:17:01-05

PORTLAND, Texas — Residents of a nearby iron ore plant who allege the plant failed to keep its product inside its facility have come to an agreement in a civil case filed in federal court.

Litigants have reached a settlement agreement in the case against Voestalpine and a preliminary class has been certified by the court.

Voestalpine is a global steel-and-technology company. This plant uses natural gas to reduce iron ore into briquettes about the size of a cell phone.

It is located just outside the city limits of Portland, and the Port of Corpus Christi owns the land it sits on.

Plaintiffs representing the class say the plant damaged their property by failing to keep the dust from its products inside the facility.

The company says that by agreeing to settle the suit it did not "engage in any wrongdoing," according to settlement notifications.

The court has preliminary certified a class, identifying seven potentially impacted areas adjacent to Voestalpine.

Only individuals who owned or resided in one of these areas between August 1, 2016, to October 28, 2021, are eligible to file a claim. Commercial property is excluded.

Individuals must submit to, exclude or object to this class action settlement by Feb. 11.

For more information visit the claims administrator website.

Voestalpine has two pending enforcement actions with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and is asking for an amendment to its air permit.

When asked about the status of those enforcement actions on Friday, the TCEQ said one of the two actions had reached a settlement, received comments, and was awaiting scheduling to the TCEQ commissioner agenda.

When asked why TCEQ had not responded to written comments made by the City of Portland in May of 2020, TCEQ said the agency is in the process of doing so.

"The commenter’s questions and concerns have been extensively reviewed," said Tiffany Young, TCEQ media relations specialist, via email. "The complexity of the case, post-settlement revisions, and staff turnover were factors in the overall progression of the case. The response to those comments are being finalized for mailout to the City. Along with the proposed order, the comments and the TCEQ response to those comments will be made available to the Commissioners for review prior to their consideration of the order. The order is not effective until approved by the Commission."

The second enforcement action, which includes allegations of air violations, is under development and has not yet been issued to Voestalpine.

"After the agreed order with an administrative penalty is mailed to the Respondent, the Respondent and the TCEQ generally have 60 days from the date of the letter transmitting the proposed agreed order to settle the matter," Young said.