Big Steel Money Comes to Wisconsin and Illinois | Wis.Community

Big Steel Money Comes to Wisconsin and Illinois

On Tuesday the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of nearly $1 million to assist with restoration efforts along Lake Michigan's shore in Wisconsin and Illinois.

The money came from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit created by Congress in 1984. The NFWF is federally funded but it partners with private entities, too, including big corporations:  five major oil companies (including British Petroleum), Wal-Mart, One of the companies is ArcelorMittal, maker of steel.

Steel giant ArcelorMittal sent a spokesman to the grant award announcement.  Here's what Bill Steers of ArcelorMittal had to say recently in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

"The Great Lakes watershed provides immeasurable benefits to communities and companies throughout the region. ArcelorMittal, along with our Sustain Our Great Lakes partners, has made a significant commitment to protecting and restoring this invaluable resource. With the infusion of additional funding from our federal partners through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, we are proud that this year's significant pool of grants will provide local governments and conservation organizations with even more capacity to protect and restore this unique watershed."

On its website,  ArcerlorMittal says that it is "committed to the sustainable management of the environment and of finite resources."

Commitment is one thing, practice is another.

In November 2009, ArcelorMittal for violating  Ohio hazardous waste laws at a rolled sheet metal factory in Columbus.

ArcelorMittal owns three coal mines in the United States (coal is used to produce steel) and two of  the mines in McDowell County, West Virginia are  strip mines, according to The Center for Media and Democracy.

Then there is the global steel corporation's landfill in Burns Harbor, Indiana on the shore of Lake Michigan beside a national park where waste has been dumped in open piles since 1999. that the company did not fully disclose what was in one three-story, 33 acre dumped pile, and it turns out that high levels of toxic cadmium and lead have been found. Though ArcelorMittal plans to build the proper storage facility, such environmental laxity is not rare for this humongous maker of steel.

For a fuller accounting of the corporation's global ecological transgressions,

For ArcelorMittal's take on environmental responsibility, you can .

I am not suggesting that Wisconsin and Illinois and the other states reject the NFWF grant, but corporate donations to environmental causes do not absolve the corporations from daily malfeasance. Perhaps the NFWF should be more discriminating in terms of corporate sponsorship. But the bigger issue is the issue of bigness.

A corporation does not have to be "too big to fail" to be too big and fail environmentally-- at least sometimes and sometimes spectacularly. Beyond a certain pretty local scale,  responsibility and care for the land (and people) diminishes. Or to put it another way, the bigger a business gets, the more likely it is to act badly and speak well. And speech, as the Supreme Court recently ruled,  can be money, too.


May 13, 2010 - 7:33am