Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 13, 2014

DEQ issues permit to controversial steel plant

The Associated Press

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality has issued a new permit to the Severstal steel plant, an operation with a history of emissions violations.

State officials contend the new air emission permit terms, which have drawn criticism from local residents and elected officials, more accurately reflect the plant’s capabilities and keep Severstal’s emissions below levels accepted by federal and Michigan laws, The Detroit News reported.

In 2006, Michigan issued a permit to Severstal setting limits on particulate emissions, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxides. The permitted levels were based on projections hashed out between the steelmaker and state officials before the plant came on-line.

Within two years, it became clear those projections did not match what was coming out of the plant. State officials said new testing methods that were more sensitive than those used previously showed higher emission levels than expected. In addition, site inspections showed additional emissions that had not been accounted for in the initial projections.

As a result, the state has issued 38 notices for violations at the plant to date.

In recent years, Severstal and the DEQ have been working on a new permit that would raise those allowable emissions to meet the steel plant’s capabilities. Those new levels remain below levels accepted by state and federal regulators. The earlier violations will continue to be pursued, as the state Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice are currently reviewing the plant’s performance history.

“The DEQ and federal authorities will continue actively pursuing resolution of its enforcement case,” said Vince Hellwig, the DEQ’s air quality division chief, in a released statement. “But the enforcement is about yesterday. The permit we announce today is about tomorrow, and we are pleased to finally have a clear, reliable permit for one of the state’s largest industrial operations.”

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