In the heart of Seattle, you will find an unlikely sight – a steel mill. Surrounded by suburban homes in one of America’s greenest cities sits Nucor Steel Seattle. Despite its surprising location, Nucor Steel Seattle has forged an uncommon partnership with its community, setting the standard for modern, urban manufacturing and demonstrating what makes Nucor different.
Nucor’s Seattle mill is the oldest steel plant on the West Coast, originally built in 1905 by Seattle Steel Company. Youngstown, a company town, surrounded the mill and provided housing for employees. During the ensuing decades, the homes in Youngstown transitioned to private ownership, but the housing was still low-cost and the area remained an industrial center. Everything changed for the mill town when a housing boom hit Seattle in the 1980s. The neighborhood, now a part of the city of Seattle, soon went through a major transition as real estate values skyrocketed and the community cleaned up. In 2002, Nucor acquired the mill from Birmingham Steel.
As one of America’s greenest cities, Seattle takes seriously having a steel mill for a neighbor.
In lock-step with the community’s environmental values, Nucor Steel Seattle is Washington’s largest recycler – reusing in excess of half a million tons of scrap metal annually and making it into new steel products. The process of recycling steel uses up to eight times less energy than many of Nucor’s competitors use. Because we’re blessed to have an abundance of clean, renewable hydropower, the mill gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric generators. And while the EPA requires visible emissions standards between 3 and 6 percent, the mill has adhered to the local standard of zero visible emissions for its melt shop. All of this adds up to Nucor’s Seattle mill being one of the cleanest and most efficient steel mills in the world.
But Nucor Steel Seattle’s electricity rates are rising just as global energy prices are falling, and that’s a problem; one that will only be made worse under a cap and trade program.
Nucor’s Seattle plant already has the highest power rates of any of the company’s steel mills across the country. The even-higher rates may force the company to shift investments to other facilities.
Nucor is a manufacturing success story, providing well-paying jobs and exemplifying the environmental ethic of Washington state. The proposed cap and trade program threatens to make valued manufacturers like Nucor Steel Seattle uncompetitive in the global market that they compete in by increasing the cost of producing products in an environmentally responsible way. What happens if a responsible manufacturer leaves our state which already has some of the most stringent environmental protections in the country? The Governor’s goal of reducing emissions will have failed.