Monroe, Ohio, February 23, 2010
Citing significant legal and technical flaws in Middletown Coke Company's recently-issued New Source Review air pollution permit, Monroe City Council has directed its lawyers to appeal the permit to the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission. Council's approval came at its regularly-scheduled meeting this evening.
According to the resolution approved by Council, Monroe "remains committed to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of itself and its citizens and will pursue actions necessary to insure that all federal and state laws and regulations are met" with regard to the coke plant.
The new permit fails to hold Middletown Coke to more stringent emission standards and pollution controls that apply to similar coke plants throughout the U.S., including Middletown Coke's own sister facility in Haverhill, Ohio. Applying those more stringent requirements to the Middletown Coke plant would further reduce the
emission of harmful pollutants by as much as 300 tons/year. "By
law, Middletown Coke must comply with the lowest achievable emission rates in the country," explained Christopher Walker, an environmental attorney representing Monroe. "You can't say this will be the cleanest coke plant in America when even SunCoke's other facilities are subject to greater control requirements."
Monroe Mayor Robert Routson added, "As a result of the efforts of Monroe and others, Middletown Coke is now subject to a New Source Review permit that reduces emissions from the coke plant by over 500 tons/year. That's a nearly 20% reduction from the emission levels in the original permit. However, we expect Ohio EPA to control emissions from the coke plant to the fullest extent required by the law. It is not acceptable to risk the health of 12,000 Monroe citizens for the sake of 75 permanent jobs."
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!
During extensive archaeological digs on the Martin farmland, which seem to have been occurring over the last year or so, through what appears to have been three separate phases of investigation, two sites have been deemed eligible for the National Register based on the archaeological evidence found. Two articles in the Middletown Journal, the most recent being printed on 1/23/10, summarizes some facts surrounding items found being dated back to 8,000 B.C.
Attached is a statement issued by the Ohio Attorney General's Office on behalf of the Ohio EPA regarding the status of the draft NSR permit following a request made by the ERAC Commission. It is reported that "At this time, Ohio EPA is unable to state with specificity when, if at all, a final NSR permit will be issued. Ohio EPA is in the process of responding to comments and questions from U.S. EPA regarding the permit." This Status Report was served to all involved parties on December 16, 2009.
Across nation, controversies brew over possible toxic emissions
This is a USA Today article from 9/14/09, in which the SunCoke battle in Middletown, OH is listed as one of the three legal disputes across the nation being discussed.
..."The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency last year granted SunCoke Energy a permit for the plant, which would make the coal-based fuel that melts iron ore for steel mills. State officials have endorsed the plant, saying it is needed to supply an AK Steel mill that employs 2,000 people in a town hard-hit by the recession. A neighboring town, local activists and national environmental groups oppose the plant, saying it is a threat to public health. The plant would be built next to Amanda Elementary School, a nursing home and a residential neighborhood."
MIDDLETOWN — Retired AK Steel worker Bill Daley was an avid golfer and marathon runner.
But a grade 4 malignant brain tumor, discovered in January 2008, caused him to lose his peripheral vision in both eyes. He suffered seizures, brain fog, slipped into a coma for about 10 days, and slowly lost his mobility. He died Feb. 9, 2009.
Daley’s children — son, Eric, 39, of Liberty Twp. and daughter, Michelle Daley Walton, 37, now of California — struggled to make sense of what had caused this in a seemingly healthy man.
“There has to be something in the water. Something in the air,’’ they feared.
Five years earlier, one of Daley’s best friends, Greg Lansaw, died of glioblastoma brain cancer, the most common and deadliest form of brain cancer.
Then Daly’s family learned that a friend, Jeff Jewell, formerly of Middletown, was in the hospital. The diagnosis: a grade 4 glioma.
“When Jeff got diagnosed I thought there has to be something about Middletown,’’ Eric Daley said.
So did his sister, a pharmaceutical saleswoman.
Walton asked everyone on her cell, email and Facebook contact lists to send information about anyone in Middletown affected by cancer.
The response was astounding. Walton discovered 11 people in Middletown were diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer since 2004.
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.
On September 16, 2009, The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a Motion to Intervene in the Ohio Court of Appeals regarding the ERAC hearing procedures issue. Currently, the Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC), as a result of recent legislative decisions, is only allowing de novo hearings to be one hour - hearings which previously could last days. Several companies have filed a lawsuit and this motion is to intervene in that lawsuit.
Attached are the documents filed in the Ohio Court of Appeals.
Following is a link to a Journal article on September 11, 2009. Ohio EPA’s proposed approach would essentially render the compliance certification provision worthless, because most any plant can be made to run in compliance for at least one day no matter how bad of a compliance history they have. The goal of OEPA seems to only be to assist SunCoke in producing a "letter" to satisfy a requirement. This approach fails to certify that SunCoke is truly in CONSISTENT compliance and is committed to running their facilities within the confines of their permit. A "letter" from one day hardly ensures compliance and in no way guarantees on any level a commitment to protecting the health of the community - which is what the OEPA is mandated by law to do. Most anyone can clean up their act for a day!
SunCoke certified its compliance Aug. 28, despite several seemingly unresolved notices of violation issued by the U.S. and Ohio EPAs for the company’s Haverhill North Coke Company facility in Franklin Furnace, Ohio.
However, these violations, while unresolved, would have no impact on SunCoke’s ability to certify compliance as long as its facilities were operating within regulation Aug. 28. The company only needs to prove it was following the emissions guidelines for that one day for the certification to qualify for the NSR permit. The company could go out of compliance at a facility again, but it would not affect its certification, said Heather Lauer, spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA.
“(SunCoke) needs to prove it was operating that day and was in compliance that day they certified,” she said. “It does not mean the certification is not valid because the violations have not been resolved.”
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) submits comments on behalf of NRDC, SunCoke Watch Inc. and Sierra Club to the OEPA on the draft NSR permit-to-install for Middletown Coke
Comments were submitted by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) on behalf of the NRDC, SunCoke Watch Inc. and the Sierra Club on the draft NSR permit-to-install for Middletown Coke Company on September 8th.
Also attached is the EPA Fact Sheet on the Middletown Coke Company permit, and submitted comments by the City of Monroe, Robert Snook, and Labyrinth Management Group.