2008 Timeline of Events for Proposed SunCoke Coke Plant in Middletown, OH

How'd we get to where we are?

FEBRUARY, 2008 - Announcement in Middletown Journal of the proposed SunCoke 100 oven coke plant in Middletown, OH on virgin farmland on the border of Middletown and Monroe, Ohio in between Amanda Elementary School, Garden Manor Retirement Village and well established neighborhoods.  The plan was to rezone the Bake and Martin farmland from low density to heavy industrial to accomodate SunCoke and AK Steel's business venture.  The coke batteries at that time were planned to be located at the Hamilton-Middletown Rd. (Rt. 4) end of the rezoned land directly behind Garden Manor.

MARCH, 2008 - City of Middletown Planning Commission meetings were held and the farmland was rezoned industrial unanimously.

APRIL, 2008 - Stay Inside The Fence was formed under the direction of Garden Manor Retirement Village with the collaboration of surrounding neighbors and community members in opposition to the proposed site.

SunCoke Watch Inc. pickets in opposition to the Middletown Coke rally.

MAY, 2008 - City of Middletown City Council unanimously approved the rezoning of the land with virtually no discussion following hours of testimony regarding environmental and health concerns from those opposing the coke plant.

JUNE, 2008 - Garden Manor Retirement Village files lawsuit against the City of Middletown; Referendum petitions circulated in the City of Middletown opposing the coke plant location with 2,069 peittion signatures obtained; The City of Middletown announces they will re-do the rezoning hearings in lieu of proceeding in court with Garden Manor.

JULY, 2008 - The second City of Middletown Planning Commission Meeting was held for the re-do of the rezoning.  SunCoke stated they'd move the batteries to the Yankee Rd. end of the rezoned land, but coal piles, train tracks, etc. would still be located on the Rt. 4 end.  The City also proposed to change the set-back for coal piles, train tracks, etc. from 600 feet to 20 feet to accomodate the SunCoke plant.  An initiative petition drive was completed in the City of Middletown driven by Garden Manor Nursing Home with an additional 1,650 signatures obtained in opposition to the plant;  Shortly, after the initiative petition drive began, Garden Manor settled their lawsuit with the City of Middletown.

AUGUST, 2008 - Lisa Frye, Stay Inside the Fence Chair, delivered the petitions to the City of Middletown and was told that Garden Manor had withdrawn their initiative petition.  The people were blocked from moving the initiative to a vote due to Garden Manor's actions; The City of Middletown City Council once again unanimously approved the rezoning of the land and the setback change; The EPA Publice Hearing was held on the 21st.  At that time, a statement was read on behalf of the Sierra Club revealing a legal flaw with the use of netting in the permit; Stay Inside the Fence was dissolved by Garden Manor.  SunCoke Watch Inc. was formed to continue to oppose the location of the proposed SunCoke site.

SEPTEMBR, 2008 - EPA comment period ended; Reports received that piping was being laid at the SunCoke site, which is forbidden prior to a final permit to install.  Pictures taken by the EPA showed piping and culverts.  Middleown Coke announced they'd cease construction until they received their permit-to-install; however, they only ceased activity for approximately two weeks.

NOVEMBER, 2008 - The Ohio EPA issues the permit dispite ongoing concerns from the USEPA regarding the use of netting in the permit.  The final permit to install is issued, but SunCoke is asked not be begin construction (an unprecedented situation with the EPA).

DECEMBER, 2008 - USA Today publishes a story on pollution next to all schools in the nation.  Amanda Elementary, which borders the proposed site, is listed in the top 1% of potential toxic schools; SunCoke Watch contacts USA Today regarding their story in Middletown, OH with a coke plant being proposed next to Amanda, a nursing home and many residential areas in an area already considered non-attainment by the EPA due to poor air quality.  The proposed plant would put an additional 2,700 tons of pollution in the air.

SunCoke Watch, the City of Monroe and Robert Snook file three separate appeals with the Environmental Review Appeals Commission in opposition to the issuance of Middletown Coke's permit-to-install.

DECEMBER 30, 2008 - USA Today story with SunCoke Watch and the proposed plant on the front page. 

JANUARY, 2009 - At 4:38 p.m. on his last day in office (1/16), Robert Meyers, a Bush administration appointee, issued the USEPA memo stating “no further comments” on the netting issue with the Middletown Coke permit.  This was hardly an overwhelming stamp of approval on a very serious case by our USEPA.  Given the date and time of the letter and the lack of substance to it, it was clearly political in nature, with no legal foundation.  Middletown Coke announces they are beginning construction activities on 1/22/09.  The City of Monroe files a federal lawsuit against Middletown Coke.

FEBRUARY 2009 - Information received from the USEPA that they issued a Notice and Finding of Violation against SuinCoke's Haverhill facility.  Their stack also collapsed from corrosion.  Additional information is submitted to USEPA Region 5 regarding the netting issue by the City of Monroe's attorneys. A subsequent letter dated 3/6/09 is received from Region 5 stating they are reviewing the new information.

APRIL 2009 - The USEPA issues a second Notice and Finding of Violation against SunCoke's Haverhill facility.  Middletown Coke submits a New Source Review application to the EPA.

MAY 2009 - Draft rules our discovered on the OEPA website that were posted on 4/24/09 regarding numerous changes to existing rules.  Many of the changes appear to be driven by the OEPA in response to Middletown Coke Company and their permitting needs for New Source Review.  Draft comments accepted through 5/27/09.

JUNE 2009 - USA Today reports study with Butler County being one of the most cancer risk areas in the nation. 

HCDES and OEPA meet with the community to discuss possible locations of two ambient air monitors required in the existing PTI for Middletown Coke Compnay.  One monitor would be placed upwind and the other downwind.  Amanda Elementary School was considered a high priority due to the risk factors associated with children and the air pollution, which would be emitted from this facility if built.  Montoring samples would be taken every 3rd, 6th and 12 day.  Given the fact that the company would know the monitoring schedule and could manipulate production around that known schedule, continuous monitors were requested.

JULY 2009 - OEPA Public Hearing to allow AK Steel to install a new coke conveyor from SunCoke’s Middletown Coke conveyor to AK Steel’s new railcar and truck loadout stations.

JULY 17, 2009- HNCC (Haverhill North Coke Company) is issued additional notices of violation by Portsmouth Air Agency regarding non-complaince.

JULY 27, 2009 - OEPA issues a draft NSR permit to Middletown Coke Company with no certfication that their other facilities in the state of Ohio are in compliance (required by law).  Public hearing is set for September 2, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. at Johnston Hall, Miami University Middletown. 

AUGUST 19, 2009 - Environmental Review Appeals Commission issues a Notice and Cancellation of Hearing for the appeals filed on the Middletown Coke Company netting permit-to-install.  Due to a budget bill in the state of Ohio, this appeal as well as numerous other pending appeals in the state of Ohio have been suspended.  Reportedly, the hearing will be scheduled for a one hour de novo hearing, to be held after January 1, 2010, with a written order affirming, vacating or modifying the action by the Commission no later than July 15, 2010. 

August 20, 2009 - Federal lawsuit filed by the City of Monroe earlier in the year is dismissed by Judge Dlott.  The case was dismissed on policy grounds, not on the merits of the case.  Since Ohio's Environmental Review Appeals Commission process is available, the federal court ruled not to interfere with those proceedings at this time.