In 1996, Bayou Steel’s “mini-mill” in LaPlace, LA, was the second largest source of airborne lead in the entire state. Not only did the scrap metal facility emit excess quantities of carcinogens such as lead, cadmium, and chromium into the air, it also routinely exceeded its particulate matter limits, frequently failed to run its air emission monitors, and deliberately rigged an EPA-required emission test to feign compliance.

Bayou Steel responded to a Clean Air Act suit filed by NELC with harassment, obstruction, and intimidation: filing a frivolous countersuit in Delaware, attempting to pull U.S. PIRG into a racketeering suit, and threatening and attempting to bribe individual witnesses. NELC persisted and eventually negotiated a landmark consent decree with Bayou Steel. The 1999 settlement mandated over $1.3 million in air pollution control upgrades and imposed a $345,000 penalty, at the time the largest Clean Air Act citizen suit penalty in Louisiana history. This penalty was directed to environmental and public health projects in St. John the Baptist parish. The consent decree also imposed heavy stipulated penalties for future violations and any delays in implementing new pollution control technology.