USX acquisition: Nippon Steel is buying a 19.4 million metric ton climate problem

Advocates, fenceline residents ask if the new owner of U.S. Steel will be better neighbors

Ariana Criste, Senior Communications Strategist


Press contact: Ariana Criste,

U.S. Steel acquisition: Nippon Steel is buying a 19.4 million metric ton climate problem

Advocates, fenceline residents ask if the new owner of U.S. Steel will be better neighbors

December 18 — Environmental and community-based groups are issuing a stark warning following today's announcement of Nippon Steel's $14.1 billion acquisition of U.S. Steel. The ramifications of this deal are profound, touching on climate and public health concerns. This deal carries a heavy carbon cost, with U.S. Steel facilities emitting a staggering 19,482,592 metric tons of CO2e annually, equivalent to approximately five coal-fired power plants.

Adding to the toll, these facilities release hazardous air pollution, including 3,955 tons of NOx, 3,402 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 1,949 tons of particulate matter yearly. According to analysis from Industrious Labs, this pollution is attributable to over 120 deaths yearly in nearby communities.

"The health and climate toll of coal-based steelmaking underscore the urgency of transitioning to cleaner methods," said Hilary Lewis, Steel Director at Industrious Labs. "This sale provides an opportunity to invest in a future that safeguards our environment, health, and communities. Instead of continuing U.S. Steel’s polluting legacy, Nippon Steel must invest in modern, clean facilities that protect community health, family-sustaining union jobs and our climate.”

The coal-burning blast furnace is at the epicenter of the global steel industry’s climate and health-harming pollution. Blast furnaces make iron from iron ore at high temperatures using coke made from coal. Notably, nearly 90% of U.S. Steel’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the company's three integrated mills located in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Gary, Indiana, and Granite City, Illinois. Although this form of steelmaking represents just 30% of U.S. steel production, it releases almost 70% of the industry’s climate pollution.

This acquisition encompasses more than U.S. Steel’s three integrated mills; it includes the largest coking plant in the U.S., responsible for producing about a third of the nation's coke: the Clairton Coke Plant in Pennsylvania. Coke ovens, where coal is refined into coke, generate over 40% of the carcinogens in the blast furnace steelmaking process.

Unfortunately, in Nippon Steel’s first presentation to shareholders this morning, the company outlined a vision for decarbonization void of leadership. The presentation failed to outline any transition plans for polluting blast furnaces and put near-zero carbon technology on a ~2050 timeline (see slide 12).

Fenceline communities react to the announcement

In light of today's announcement, communities near U.S. Steel’s blast furnaces are expressing concerns about the future of these operations:

“I've witnessed firsthand the significant health and environmental impact of Gary Works, Indiana's number one source of carbon emissions and heavy metal pollution,” said Ashley Williams, Executive Director at Just Transition NWI. “We must find ways to justly and equitably transition towards a regenerative, green economy that protects our environment and health while still supporting the livelihoods of local workers.”

Nippon Steel is a laggard in the global transition to clean steel

In stark contrast to U.S. Steel’s blast furnace fleet, companies worldwide, including notable examples in Sweden, are already forging ahead with industrial-scale green steel plants, utilizing green hydrogen direct reduced iron (DRI), a near-zero carbon technology. Key steel buyers like Mercedes are lining up to buy cleaner steel, putting steel companies that fail to invest in green steel at a competitive disadvantage.

As the ink dries on this acquisition, the choices made by Nippon Steel carry heavy consequences for neighboring communities and the climate. Surrendering the burgeoning green steel market to other countries carries tangible repercussions for American workers and communities.


About Industrious Labs:

Industrious Labs is focused on scaling campaigns and building a movement to clean up heavy industry through network and capacity building, research and analysis, data-driven campaigns and sharp communications.