SunCoke Settlement Proposed: Residents Near Controversial New Ohio Plant Win Big Health and Safety Concessions
MIDDLETOWN, OH (May 8, 2012) – Residents in Middletown and Monroe, Ohio who have been fighting a new coke plant illegally sited near their neighborhoods, an elementary school and a nursing home are on the verge of winning major concessions from backers of the project. SunCoke Energy, AK Steel, the Ohio EPA, and other parties to the case have agreed to an array of environmental and safety alterations to the Middletown facility in a proposed settlement to a suit brought by SunCoke Watch, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the neighboring City of Monroe.
“We are far from thrilled with our new neighbors,” said Lisa Frye, President of SunCoke Watch, whose property is adjacent to the new plant. “And we are not exactly happy about this settlement, because this massive, polluting plant never should have been allowed to open so close to Amanda Elementary School and Garden Manor Nursing Home – not to mention our neighborhoods and families. But now that the coke plant has been built, this settlement agreement would start to address many of the burdens that we live with day in and day out.”
The proposed settlement, announced by the City of Monroe today, requires SunCoke to address many of the biggest concerns that community members have raised regarding air, noise, and light pollution from the plant. As part of the agreement, SunCoke will build earthen berms, landscape and maintain a tree barrier, and install new equipment to address coal dust, noise, and light pollution from the Middletown coke plant’s equipment and coal storage areas. SunCoke will also reduce the amount of coal burned during malfunctions at the plant when air pollution emissions are at their highest, and it will install an additional air pollution monitor to ensure that sulfur emissions from the facility do not threaten the health of neighboring residents. In addition, SunCoke has agreed to several provisions that are designed to ensure that the company keeps community members informed about what is happening at the plant. The Monroe City Council will vote whether to accept the settlement in two weeks.
“This settlement wouldn’t fix all of the problems with SunCoke’s permit, but it does contain improvements that will benefit Monroe and Middletown residents,” said Thom Cmar, a Middletown native who is an attorney for the Midwest Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council and helped to negotiate the settlement. “SunCoke has always promised that it will be a good neighbor, but the company’s actions have not yet lived up to that promise. SunCoke needs to clean up its act; the coke plant has already been cited for violating their pollution permits. This settlement would give people living near the plant tools to hold it accountable if that continues.”
The SunCoke plant burns coal to supply AK Steel’s Middletown Works with electricity and coke used in the steel-making process. Instead of siting the new facility on AK Steel’s existing grounds, the new plant was built on formerly open farmland near neighborhoods, a school, and a nursing home, goading nearby residents into this long-running legal battle. Since the Middletown coke plant began operating last year, SunCoke has already been cited by the Southwestern Ohio Air Quality Agency for exceeding its pollution allowances.
The proposed settlement would resolve an air permit appeal pending before the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission in Columbus. The appellants to the case are the Natural Resources Defense Council, SunCoke Watch, and the City of Monroe. SunCoke Watch is represented in the case by attorney Peter A. Precario from Columbus, Ohio.
# # #
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org
Deputy Director, National Media
Natural Resources Defense Council
312-651-7909 (o) | 773-531-5359 (m)