MONROE FILES CLEAN AIR ACT LAWSUIT CHALLENGING NEW STEELMAKING COKE PLANT IN MIDDLETOWN
Photo: SunCoke Plant in Haverhill, Ohio.
The City of Monroe, Ohio today filed suit against Middletown Coke Company, Inc. and its parent company, SunCoke Energy, Inc., for violations of the federal Clean Air Act in connection with the construction of a coke manufacturing plant adjacent to the AK Steel Middletown Works in Middletown. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and an injunction to halt construction of the coke plant until necessary permitting and pollution control requirements are met.
Middletown Coke intends to construct a new plant to produce steel-making coke for AK Steel. The plant, coal and coke piles, and rail facilities would be constructed on undeveloped farmland approximately 1,200 feet from residences in Monroe.
“If Middletown Coke would site its project responsibly and comply with applicable air pollution laws for the protection of the public, Monroe would not oppose the coke plant,” said Monroe Mayor Robert Routson. “As things currently stand, however, Monroe has no alternative but to oppose a plant that threatens the health and welfare of Monroe’s residents and businesses.”
The coke plant would emit thousands of tons per year of new pollutants into the air of Butler County, which currently does not meet federal air quality standards designed to protect public health. For example, the coke plant would emit up to 439 tons per year of particulate matter and over 2,000 tons per year of other pollutants that form fine particles in the air. Butler County currently is not in compliance with the national air quality standard for fine particulate matter. Breathing air containing particulate matter at levels above the national ambient air standards increases the occurrence of cancer, respiratory disease, and lung damage. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease tend to be especially sensitive to the effects of particulate matter.
Construction of the coke plant violates federal permitting requirements applicable to major sources of air pollution. As a result, the coke plant will use air pollution controls that are inferior to those at other coke plants recently built in Ohio and elsewhere in the U.S.
Although Ohio EPA has issued an air pollution permit for the coke plant, that permit does not require Middletown Coke to comply with stringent Clean Air Act requirements known as “New Source Review.” Until recently, U.S. EPA was conducting a detailed review of whether the permit complied with those federal requirements. On Friday, January 16, in the final hours of the Bush administration, a senior U.S. EPA official issued a short memo stating that U.S. EPA had “no further comments on this matter.” That official has since left his position with U.S. EPA.
“The Bush administration made a last-minute deal with AK Steel and SunCoke that allows them to dodge air pollution control requirements,” said Christopher Walker, an environmental lawyer representing Monroe. “Monroe is taking this matter to federal court to get an impartial review of these violations.”
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati.
For further information, please contact Christopher Walker of the Dayton office of Van Kley & Walker at (937) 226-9000.
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