Time Has Revealed the Truth - Middletown Journal Guest Column (1/31/10)

It was two years ago (February ‘08) when the story about the proposed SunCoke facility hit the Middletown Journal, along with the plan for the City of Middletown to rezone the Bake and Martin farmland to accommodate SunCoke and its partner AK Steel. In the months and now years following this announcement, the monotonous rheteric we’ve continued to hear is that this plant would be “environmentally friendly” and “state of the art” with SunCoke boasting about their honorable record at their plant in Haverhill, which has been used as the model for the proposed plant in Middletown. We heard the need for “emergency” legislation since the facility HAD to be up and running no later than December, 2009 since AK would need the coke and communicated to the community that this was their only option to meet that need (at least it was the message they seemed to consistently send to the community.)

Boy how time has revealed the truth – not fictitious story telling – we’ve heard.

Let’s just set the record straight…

First of all, the fact that its now January 2010 and SunCoke has yet to begin construction on their facility and do hold a permit in hand to do so brings question as to what their purpose for “emergency” actually was. Typically, emergency indicates immediacy, timeliness or necessity. Not in this case! Many contend the “emergency” legislation maneuver was to block any referendum vote that could have potentially been initiated by the people at that time. One must ask the question – if the legislation had to be “emergency” and SunCoke has had the first “netting” permit-to-install since November, 2009 with no legal entity telling them they can’t construct, why are they not constructing? Yes, the “netting” permit is being legally challenged in ERAC, but SunCoke has not been told they can’t construct in a court of law. Could it be that SunCoke knows they may have a legal problem and aren’t willing to roll such expensive dice?

Regarding SunCoke’s environmental record, their negligent “report card” in Haverhill spanning years speaks for itself (go to suncokewatch.com to review the Notices of Violations). SunCoke continues to have NOV’s unresolved at their Haverhill facility and have been deemed a “high priority violator” by the USEPA. SunCoke was issued another NOV at their Haverhill facility on 12/11/09. SunCoke’s and the Ohio EPA’s contention is that SunCoke could submit a letter stating they were in compliance at their Ohio facilities and, as long as they were in compliance on the ONE day they sent the letter, they would meet the legal requirment for their NSR permit. This, we believe, is just one more example of their attempt to manipulate rule and law! They bring an entirely new dimension to the phrase “rules are made to be broken!”

As to the coke supply need/cry we heard for months and months and months and months…amazingly AK Steel secured 550,000 tons of coke annually from SunCoke’s Haverhill facility when they realized they needed to come up with another plan in the fall of 2009. It was the very resource we challenged them with when they were leading the community to believe they had no other options. What we believed to be true, was, indeed, true.

Most recently we became aware of the fact that Indian artifacts were found and extensive archaelogical digs were conducted on the Martin farmland. Of course, this information was not presented to the community or to the Journal by SunCoke. As with so many issues surrounding this proposed facility, it’s been up to the citizens to investigate the facts and then inform the community and the media. SunCoke has been anything but forthright in their communication with the people. It was reported in the Journal that “the company did not want to release information until after its New Source Review air permit from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is issued. SunCoke has not returned requests for comment.”

So, it goes without saying – “SunCoke your actions speak so loudly we can’t hear what you are saying!”

Over the last two years, the picture has become quite clear: a proposed coke plant in the middle of an elementary school, nursing home and highly residential area – built by SunCoke/Sunoco with an extensive history of violating emission and monitoring laws – the destruction of pristine farmland, which has now been confirmed to be eligible for the National Register due to American Indian archaelogical finds dating back to 8,000 B.C. – and emissions from the plant which would threaten the health of children, the elderly and families.

Each of us will accept either the truth or deception – it depends on which price one is willing to pay!