The two directors also prosecuted in this case, from the Florange site and one of the coking plants, were released.
The case was brought before the court of Thionville in November 2020, when the public prosecutor's office demanded a "dissuasive" sentence in line with the company's resources, i.e. €300,000. The steelmaker was accused of having delayed compliance with the standards of the Environmental Code despite allegedly being aware of the risk.
ArcelorMittal acknowledged the pollution of 8 March, resulting from a clean-up operation of the coking plant, it denied any responsibility in the episode of 12 August, attributing it to heavy weather condition.
The firm pleaded for acquittal and argued that the company was undergoing a “continuous improvement process on environmental issues”. This point was disputed by the commune of Florange and the Val de Fensch conurbation community, which criticised the steelmaker for its inaction in the face of repeated pollution episodes, as well as by the French State, which had given the steelmaker formal notice to bring the coking plant's installations up to standard.
€150,000 fine and €10,000 in damages
The court ruled and sentenced the company to a €150,000 fine for “discharging a harmful substance into groundwater” on 12 August 2019 and “operating an installation classified as not complying with a formal notice” over a period from 2 August to 27 November, 2019. The steelmaker will also have to pay €10,000 in damages to two environmental protection associations (France Nature Environnement and Lorraine Nature Environnement), which filed a civil claim alongside the Florange town hall.
At the origin of the complaints, the mayor of Florange, Rémy Dick (LR), said he was very satisfied with a judgment that sets an example and gives real credibility to elected officials in demanding results in environmental matters.
In Florange, ArcelorMittal employs more than 2,000 people. The coking plant at the heart of the controversy, which employed 170, was closed at the end of April.
This article was originally published on Paperjam.lu in French.