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Chrysler Group LLC could have a newly updated air pollution permit in hand by the end of the month that would allow the automaker to expand and boost production at its Toledo North Assembly Plant, where the next generation 2013 Jeep Liberty will be made — if it chooses to do so.
Fewer than a dozen people attended a public hearing Thursday night in the Auditorium of the West Toledo YMCA as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Toledo Division of Environmental Services sought comments on three draft air quality permits for the automaker’s Toledo Assembly Complex.
The permit applications are the first public confirmation by the automaker that it wants to ramp up production again at Toledo North — the only remaining assembly plant in its inventory with only one shift of workers.
None of the few people in attendance — which included representatives from the State of Ohio, the city of Toledo, the United Auto Workers, and Chrysler — offered any comments on the draft permits or after the hearing concluded.
If no public comments are received by the city’s Division of Environmental Services by 5 p.m. Monday, the automaker could have its permits in hand later this month, said Dina Pierce, a spokesman for the Ohio EPA.
How much money Chrysler will invest in Toledo Assembly is unclear, but it is expected to rival the $600 million it spent to build the Toledo North plant and the $900 million it spent to build its Toledo Supplier Park, all within the past 13 years.
In its application, Chrysler is seeking permission to increase the amounts of certain pollutants they are permitted to release to accommodate a ramped up production rate of up to 327,000 vehicles annually, more than three and a half times the plant’s 2010 production of 91,973 vehicles.
The automaker has requested the air quality permits because it wants to expand its existing painting and welding lines, lengthen the curing ovens to speed up drying its coatings, and add equipment to inject a two-part foam compound into body panels to make its new vehicles quieter, said Bob Kossow, the city environmental engineer who is preparing the permits.
Mr. Kossow said the requested increases in pollution levels are incremental — such as a two percent increase in volatile organic compounds, or VOCs —and in total would still be 80 percent smaller than permits approved for the former Jeep Parkway plant in 1990.
In addition, Mr. Kossow said Chrysler had requested Thursday night’s public hearing in order to expedite the process for getting new permits approved for an expansion.
Toledoan Mike Kookoothe, who said he used to work at Ford Motor Co.’s former Maumee Stamping Plant, was one of the few people not directly associated with the project who took the time to attend the half-hour public hearing.
Afterward, Mr. Kookoothe said he thought Chrysler’s request was reasonable.
“If it helps bring people back to work, you have to support the community,” Mr. Kookoothe said. “I believe Chrysler’s trying to do their due diligence to our community by giving people a chance to have their say.”
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