TATA Steel could be faced with a bill running into tens of millions of pounds to improve air quality around Scunthorpe.
Tough new rules have been introduced by the European Union to tackle emissions – and the steel industry is the first to be targeted.
Company chiefs have presented a 95-point plan, but are asking for the laws to be relaxed in six areas where improvements would be either infeasible or too expensive.
As part of the measures, Tata Steel is proposing spending millions on building a desulphurisation plant alongside the coke ovens – and the company has promised there will be significant changes to current levels of emissions.
Tata Steel will need to satisfy Environment Agency bosses that they can meet the new directives in order to be granted a licence next March to carry on operating.
The company’s response is expected to go out to public consultation next week.
The tough rules come as the 4,000 employees in Scunthorpe have been urged to take immediate action to help the business deliver a profit by March 31.
The EU has issued the new directives for an improved clean-up programme to be in place by 2016.
The Environment Agency has been given the job of ensuring the improvements are carried out to improve the air quality in and around the town.
Team leader Steve Proffitt said: “We issued an information notice to Tata Steel in Scunthorpe in May, asking them to tell us how they are going to implement the best available techniques to limit the amount of pollution by 2016.
“We have received Tata Steel’s response and we are reviewing it to see if it is a valid application.
“Once this is duly made it will go out to the public for consultation, which we expect to be in the next week or so.”
As part of its submission, Tata Steel is seeking approval to relax the law on emissions in six areas, mainly involving the two ageing batteries of coke ovens on the Appleby site and in Dawes Lane.
Mr Proffitt said: “The company is seeking six derogations, four of them relating to the coke ovens.
“If the derogations are not agreed, then the bill for Tata Steel could run into tens of millions of pounds.”
Mr Proffitt said since taking over the Scunthorpe site in 2007, Tata Steel had invested and made improvements to prevent dust emissions.
But he added: “Tata Steel will have to make improvements to meet the required levels of hazardous substances known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The levels are higher than the so-called trigger value in the EU directive.
“But they are conservative limits and don’t pose an imminent threat.”
A Tata Steel spokesman said: “The forthcoming permit review will bring significant changes to some of our emission limits.
“Tata Steel has committed to meet these, with only a small number of exceptions, where exemptions have been applied for in line with the directive.
“In each such case, the improvements are either technically infeasible or else disproportionately expensive when set against the relatively minor environmental benefits they would yield.”