'Monroe has no alternative but to oppose this venture'
Friday, December 12, 2008
The city of Monroe has expressed serious concerns about a proposal to construct a 100-oven coke plant complex that will be located little more than 1,000 feet from a residential community in Monroe. The coke plant is to be constructed by Middletown Coke Co., a subsidiary of SunCoke Energy Inc., and will provide steel-making coke to AK Steel.
Recently, the Chamber of Commerce and the Butler County Building and Trades Council asked publicly that the city of Monroe explain the basis for its opposition to the coke plant. This letter is in response to those public requests.
Monroe acknowledges the importance of AK Steel to the Butler County community. Generally speaking, Monroe is not opposed to the construction of additional coke-making capacity for AK Steel. If Middletown Coke would site its project responsibly and comply with applicable air pollution laws for the protection of the public, Monroe would gladly drop its objections to the coke plant. As the coke plant proposal currently stands, however, Monroe has no alternative but to oppose this venture that threatens the health and welfare of Monroe's residents and businesses.
Middletown Coke had the option to locate the coke plant complex on AK Steel property farther away from Monroe. Instead, Middletown Coke has chosen to locate the coke plant complex on undeveloped farmland that, at its nearest point, is little more than 1,000 feet from Monroe residences. Although Middletown Coke now proposes to move its coke ovens to the eastern end of the complex, the site as a whole is unacceptable given the proximity to Monroe residences and Middletown Coke's option to site on AK Steel property.
In addition, 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. To offer only a few examples:
The coke plant would emit up to 1,584 tons per year of sulfur dioxide. High levels of sulfate aerosols, formed by sulfur dioxide, are associated with increased sickness and mortality from lung disorders, such as asthma and bronchitis.
The coke plant would also emit up to 439 tons per year of particulate matter. Breathing air containing particulate matter at levels above the national ambient air standards increases the occurrence of premature death, cancer, respiratory disease and lung damage. The elderly, children and people with chronic lung disease, influenza or asthma tend to be especially sensitive to the effects of particulate matter. Breathing fine particulate matter poses even greater health risks. Butler County currently is not in compliance with the national air quality standard for fine particulate matter. Nonetheless, the coke plant would spew up to 114 tons of additional fine particulates into the air each year.
The air permit for the coke plant violates federal permitting requirements applicable to major sources of air pollution. As a result, the coke plant will be allowed to operate with air pollution controls that are inferior to other coke plants recently built in Ohio and elsewhere in this country. In fact, when Ohio EPA issued the permit, it noted that U.S. EPA is continuing to review certain aspects of the permit. Accordingly, Ohio EPA asked Middletown Coke not to proceed with construction of the coke plant until U.S. EPA's concerns are resolved.
Given these serious issues with the Middletown Coke coke plant, Monroe has no alternative but to press its objections in the interest of the health and welfare of its residents. Monroe is concerned that the Chamber of Commerce and the Building and Trades Council have been misled by Middletown Coke to believe that the coke plant is a clear and undisputed benefit to the community. In its current form, it is not. In the interest of the jobs and economic development, the Chamber of Commerce, the Building and Trades Council and others should press AK Steel and Middletown Coke to correct the serious inadequacies of the current coke plant proposal.
Mayor Robert E. Routson
City of Monroe
This letter was also signed by Vice Mayor Steven Tannreuther and City Council members Bob Kelley, Suzi Rubin, Tracy Shell and Lora Stillman.
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