The "White-Glove Test" was not so scientific afterall!

Lisa Frye: Haverhill ‘white-glove test’ is not scientific, accurate

Guest Column - Middletown Journal, September 17, 2009

It’s now been more than 18 months since SunCoke waltzed into our community and stated they would be constructing a “state of the art,” “environmentally friendly” coking facility on the border of Middletown and Monroe.

During the planning commission and City Council meetings in Middletown, citizens from Haverhill, Ohio, provided testimony regarding how SunCoke was not the environmentally friendly neighbor they were espousing to be. Their testimony was ignored. A “white-glove test” performed by some leaders in the community — when they visited the Haverhill facility — was more than enough for them to accept SunCoke’s statements hook, line and sinker.

Time has now revealed facts that prove that the “white-glove test” wasn’t so scientific after all. Currently, SunCoke has two “notices of violation” issued to them at its Haverhill facility by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which are currently unresolved. One of the notices states that SunCoke was out of compliance numerous quarters — 75 percent of the time since 2005 — for not having their continuous emission monitors running as required by their permit. The U.S. EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database reports that the Haverhill North facility has been a HPV (High Priority Violator) of Clean Air Act requirements since July 2008. HPV is the most serious level of violation noted in EPA databases, and those violations are identified as unaddressed on the database. The ECHO report notes violations of PSD (Prevention of Significant Deterioration of Air Quality) requirements at the facility for the last four quarters, and of the sulfur dioxide requirements for the current quarter. Additionally, there are two unresolved notices of violation issued by the Portsmouth air agency on July 17, 2009 (10 days before the draft New Source Review permit was issued). Since SunCoke’s Haverhill North Coke Co. began operation in March 2005, they’ve been issued six notices of violation and one warning letter by Portsmouth, and two notices by the U.S. EPA. This behavior certainly does not support SunCoke’s “environmentally friendly” claim.

Many of us were well aware of this laundry list of violations as we walked into the NSR public hearing on Sept. 2. To our dismay, during the question-and-answer phase of the meeting, Mike Hopkins of the Ohio EPA described SunCoke as “not the type of company that ignores its obligations in terms of compliance.” We frankly weren’t quite sure what company he could be referring to, as that was not an accurate statement for SunCoke. Even when direct questions were asked of the Ohio EPA regarding the status of the violations, they were seemingly ignored — with no information provided to the public. The noncompliance facts were only offered after the citizens provided it to the public during the hearing.

One must ask the question: How can the Ohio EPA make such a statement and seemingly blatantly ignore what they are required to do by law — certify that SunCoke’s facilities are in compliance? By statutory mandate, the Ohio EPA is required to “provide for enforcement of the right of the people to environmental quality consistent with human health and welfare.” Their first obligation should be to the children at Amanda Elementary, the elderly at Garden Manor and families in the surrounding community who are threatened with this proposal to be neighbors to a High Priority Violator.