U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown: Saving Ohio steel jobs

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 26, 2024

For the last year, we’ve been fighting to stop a proposed Department of Energy rule that would have put the supply chain for transformers at risk and threatened hundreds of Ohio steel jobs.

Transformers, the metal boxes on power line poles, are crucial to our electric grid. And when storms knock out transformers and power lines, it takes too many communities too long to get the power back on because of delays in the transformer supply chain. The last thing Ohio communities need is more hurdles to getting new transformers.

The administration’s proposed rule required all new transformers to be made with a different kind of steel that’s almost entirely manufactured overseas.

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Changing the steel requirements overnight would have put an already delicate supply chain at risk. There’s already enough delays and disruptions – we don’t need our energy grid to be dependent on foreign steel. That could be the difference between a power outage that lasts a few hours and one that lasts days.

American steel manufacturers like Cleveland-Cliffs would have lost business and Ohio steelworkers could have lost jobs. Right now, 95 percent of transformers are made with grain oriented electric steel, which Cleveland-Cliffs makes at its Zanesville plant in Ohio. We’re making steel for these transformers efficiently in America and in Ohio.

We can’t send these good-paying union jobs overseas.

So, we went to work to stop it and pressure the administration to fix this rule before any damage could be done.

We made clear to the Department of Energy that they needed to listen to local leaders and workers and producers in the industry. We introduced a bipartisan bill with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which would have stopped the proposed rule from taking effect.

And we got results. Earlier this month, the Department of Energy announced significant changes to the initial, misguided transformer rule.

We got it done because we had everyone at the table: union workers, steel companies, Ohio local leaders, and electric co-ops. And the final standards are a huge improvement.

The new rule will keep this critical supply chain in the U.S. and protect jobs. This was a major win for Ohio workers and Ohio manufacturers.

I will always, always go to bat for Ohio workers and do everything possible to try to protect their jobs.

Sherrod Brown is a Democrat and the senior U.S. senator representing Ohio. His office can be reached at 202-224-2315.