President Biden faces new pressure to block Nippon Steel’s acquisition of iconic manufacturer US Steel, this time from environmental groups who say the partnership would set back US efforts to curb climate change.

In interviews, environmental activists working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions say the merger would unite two steel giants that are lagging in the transition away from fossil fuels.

Researchers at Industrious Labs, a nonprofit fighting to decarbonize steel and other heavy industries, relied on public disclosures from both companies to calculate that Nippon and US Steel are relatively high emitters of heat-trapping gases from steel production. Both companies rely heavily on coal-fired blast furnaces and are on a slower path toward transitioning to cleaner fuels than some international competitors. Three US Steel facilities, in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois, combine to emit more greenhouse gases in a year than a comparable number of coal-fired power plants, the researchers estimate.

Nippon and US Steel officials say they are pursuing multiple strategies to decarbonize by 2050, including producing high-quality steel in more efficient electric furnaces and using hydrogen injection technology in blast furnaces, and that their merger will boost those. efforts.

In a joint statement Thursday, the companies said the deal would “create a stronger, more competitive global company” and that Nippon and US Steel “recognize that solving sustainability challenges is a fundamental pillar of a steelmaker’s existence and growth.” “.

Concerns about the climate implications of the deal add to the growing political backlash over the proposed acquisition. A bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida and Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, have urged the administration to review and stop the power grab.

Lawmakers cite potential harm to American workers and the country’s defense industrial base if Nippon were to close some of US Steel’s American plants. The company says it has no plans to do so. The United Steelworkers Union has also opposed it, fearing job losses; Japanese officials have said they will respect existing labor agreements.

Former President Donald J. Trump, probable Republican presidential candidate, he told reporters last month that he would block the sale “instantly” if he were in office.

White House officials have indicated that the administration is reviewing the acquisition, a process that could allow Biden to block the deal.

Lael Brainard, who heads Biden’s National Economic Council, suggested in a written statement shortly after the deal was announced that the merger would likely be vetted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS and headed by Secretary of State Treasure.

Administration officials have declined to confirm that a review is underway.

“CFIUS is committed to taking all necessary actions within its authority to safeguard the national security of the United States,” Treasury spokeswoman Megan Apper said this week. “Consistent with law and practice, CFIUS does not comment publicly on transactions that it may or may not be reviewing.”

Asked by reporters last month about the merger, Brainard said Biden “continues to firmly believe that steel is an important industry as the backbone of the transformation that we’re driving in the economy, in terms of the energy transition. advanced manufacturing infrastructure” and national security.

Environmental groups say the agreement could hinder that energy transition. If the deal is allowed to go forward, those groups say, it could keep emissions much higher at US Steel’s coal-fired plants than they would be if the company were sold to a different buyer, one that is more committed to sustainability. electrification and other advanced enterprises. technologies that reduce emissions.

Both Japan and US Steel aims Stop effectively releasing heat-trapping assets into the atmosphere by 2050, a goal known as “net zero,” largely based on technologies they have not yet developed or scaled. Environmental groups have pushed for more ambitious and concrete measures.

“Their ambitions are very modest,” Yong Kwon, senior policy advisor for the Sierra Club’s Living Economy program, said in an interview.

Kwon said environmental groups were concerned that neither Nippon nor US Steel seemed likely to retire coal-fired blast furnaces anytime soon and were raising that issue with lawmakers and the administration.

“The important thing is that we have a steel industry committed to making transitions that will improve the steel manufacturing process domestically, maintain jobs, increase jobs domestically, and also minimize the public health harms that these manufacturers are currently committing.” of steel. industries,” he said. “The best we can do is make sure the government understands that and its broader importance to the green transition it has set out to achieve.”

Executives at Japan-based Nippon and Pittsburgh-based US Steel say they are spending money to pursue multiple strategies to reduce emissions, including trying to reduce emissions. That includes US Steel’s partnerships with universities and the Department of Energy on efforts to capture and store emissions from coal-fired plants.

Some CFIUS experts say it would be overkill for the administration to block the sale of a U.S. company, essentially for economic reasons, to a competitor of a strong U.S. ally like Japan.

Blocking the sale over climate concerns would represent an even bigger hurdle, a reality that even some environmental activists admit. The law establishing CFIUS’ analyzes of the risks of a sale to a foreign-owned company mandates that the review consider “an assessment of the threat, vulnerabilities, and national security consequences related to the transaction.”

Some analysts critical of Nippon Steel’s climate commitments say the proposed sale could benefit American workers, injecting Japanese know-how and capital into a company that has often struggled to compete despite decades of federal government aid.

“To be honest, US Steel is a bit of an old, underinvested and declining company,” said Chris Bataille, a researcher at the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “When you look at global steel companies, if we’re not worried about carbon, Nippon Steel coming in and investing in US Steel and helping their technology get back to being the best in the world” would be good for the company.

But he added: “Nippon is fair, it is not that committed to the climate.”

Other analysts say the deal could backfire for American workers by failing to boost US Steel to compete in a growing global market for so-called green steel, which is produced without fossil fuels. They say such failure could eventually jeopardize American manufacturing and jobs.

“They have no immediate plans to clean up their coal-fired facilities, which are those blast furnaces, and that’s planned for 2030,” said Hilary Lewis, director of steel at Industrious Labs. She said, “2030 is not that soon, and even “When you look at their timeline for 2050, they’re not meeting the investments that I think they should be making today.”

“It’s not just about missing an opportunity,” Ms. Lewis said. “It’s about the trajectory of these companies and making sure they are prepared for the next century.”