Chuck Inwood Challenges Middletown Journal Editorial on 2/21/10

I’ve just finished reading the editorial in Sunday’s Journal, “Monroe leaders should end costly SunCoke battle.” The editorial writers have either not been paying attention or are simply continuing to demonstrate their bias on this issue.

The editors seem to forget SunCoke has had a valid permit, the “netting” permit, since November 2008. They could have started construction any time since then. Any flaws found in the recently issued New Source permit would be no more protected from the appeals process than the flaws in the earlier netting permit. Certainly the Journal doesn’t believe that SunCoke should be above the law and that any flaws in the new permit should be ignored. After the numerous problems found in the netting permit, certainly the editors will understand if we have little confidence in the Ohio EPA.

The Journal is supporting a company, SunCoke, who is currently listed as a High Priority Violator by the United States EPA. SunCoke’s Haverhill facility in Franklin Furnace, Ohio is the model for the proposed facility in Middletown. That facility has been issued numerous notices of violation including a violation in December. None of these violations have been resolved. SunCoke-Haverhill is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by neighbors for past and continuing pollution problems. Certainly the Journal is aware of these matters, yet you continue to support this corporate scofflaw in the name of economic development.

One of the provisions of the new permit is SunCoke must be “in compliance” at all of their facilities in Ohio. The Ohio EPA has interpreted this to be in compliance at a single point in time of the applicants choosing. This is like me saying I can drive 90 miles an hour down I-75 and that I get to choose the point in time when the Highway Patrol gets to clock my speed! Pretty sweet deal for me but I’m not sure what it means for the safety of those around me!

No one can argue against the fact that this facility and the over 2,500 tons of new pollution it brings with it each year would make this area dirtier and the air less healthy. SunCoke, Governor Strickland, the Ohio EPA, nor The Journal has given the citizens of this area any reason to believe SunCoke will operate a local facility within the limits of any permit better than they have elsewhere.

Let’s get our facts straight here. The Journal has reported that AK has secured the coke they need in a long term agreement with SunCoke’s Haverhill facility. Simple logic tells us that the freight to ship coal versus finished coke would be higher. They want the co-generator piece of this project more than they want or need the coke and they are perfectly willing to use scare tactics to try to get it. I believe AK’s shouting about the 75 jobs is just PR spin. The Journal continues to be complicit in this effort to lower AK’s electric bill.

The Journal has consistently refused to cover both sides of this story completely. They have refused to outline the potential harmful effects of the pollution this permit by Governor Strickland’s Ohio EPA allows. Even when submitted to your editors by this writer, the Journal has made excuses to keep the potential effects of Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide and Particulate Pollution out of its pages.

The Journal seems to portray Monroe as an irresponsible and defiant teenager who just got an increase in their allowance rather than as a city with a legitimate right and responsibility to protect the community, its residents and their future. We believe Monroe Council’s investments serve to protect the entire Monroe community from a serious deterioration in its quality of life. They are making an investment to prevent a certain decline that would start at the city’s northern border and spread slowly but surely past Whispering Oaks, Mount Pleasant, to Bridle Creek and the entire community.

Most Monroe residents do “get it” apparently better than the Journal. We know many things that are worthwhile are not easy and come with a cost. I think the majority of Monroe’s residents thank City Council for their efforts and hope they will stay strong and keep fighting.

READ Journal Editorial