AK Steel to close Ashland, Kentucky Coke Plant

AK Steel Corp. announced today, Dec. 28 it is permanently closing its Ashland, Ky., coke plant next year. The West Chester Twp.-based steel maker currently has 263 hourly and salaried employees at the coke plant, which produced the blast furnace fuel for AK’s iron and steel making facility in Ashland, according to AK. It is being closed because the coke facility is no longer cost competitive due to increased maintenance costs and environmental regulations, officials said.



News of the coke plant’s imminent shutdown didn’t come as a total shock. A Nov. 1 filing by AK Steel with the Securities & Exchange Commission listed the plant’s closing as a possibility due to the cost of complying with the environmental regulations.

The report stated the Environmental Protection Agency and the company haven’t reached a final agreement about how to deal with notices of violation of EPA regulations on July 23, 2007, and Dec. 9, 2008.

Bringing the plant into compliance with the EPA would require extensive improvements, which would cost the company approximately $50 million over several years, the filing stated.

The EPA’s website lists the coke plant’s violation of the Clean Air Act as a high priority violation and states that the plant has been in non-compliance with the act for the past 12 business quarters, or about three years.

Another signal that the Ashland plant was on borrowed time came in September of last year, when AK Steel signed an agreement to purchase coke from SunCoke Energy’s Haverhill North Coke Company plant in Franklin Furnace for at least 12 years. The agreement calls for the Ohio facility to furnish AK Steel up to 550,000 tons of metallurgical coke a year.

AK Steel said at the time of the agreement that it had no plans to shut down any of its existing coke-making capacity. However, the company said it had ongoing concerns about the Ashland plant due to its age and environmental compliance costs.