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AK Steel Holding Corporation (AKS - Analyst Report) announced that it has inked an agreement to settle an action brought on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Commonwealth of Kentucky under the Clean Air Act and other statutes and regulations with respect to the company’s former Ashland, Ky., coke plant.

Per the agreement, AK Steel will undertake two supplemental environmental projects worth $2 million at its Ashland Works steel plant to reduce air emissions from that plant. According to AK Steel, it received cooperation from the Commonwealth of Kentucky during the settlement negotiation process for a part of its assessed penalty to be applied to environmental improvement projects at the Ashland Works.

AK Steel permanently shut down its Ashland coke plant in 2011 on account of excessively high maintenance costs and also due to increasingly stringent environmental regulations. The company has spent about $85 million on environmental-related capital projects and more than $1.1 billion to operate and maintain its environmental standards from 2003 till 2012.

A few days ago, AK Steel reached a new labor agreement with the members of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1865 union. The agreement will hold good for 18 months and will cover more than 800 hourly production and maintenance steel operations employees at the Ashland Works plant.

The current agreement will expire on Sep 1. The new one will be effective from Sep 1, 2013, and will expire on Mar 1, 2015. The agreement is in the best interests of both AK Steel and Local 1865 members.

AK Steel currently retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Other companies in the steel industry with favorable Zacks Rank are Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation (NSSMY), Kobe Steel Ltd. (KBSTY) and Ternium S.A. (TX - Snapshot Report). While Nippon Steel retains a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Kobe Steel and Ternium carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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