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Published: Thursday, 6/11/2009

Decide on coke plant

FIVE years should be more than enough time to complete most industrial projects, even major ones. But five years after its original permit was issued, ground has not even been broken on the proposed coking plant on the Oregon-East Toledo border.

Now it s time to fish or cut bait.

The latest salvo in the long-running battle between FDS Coke Plant LLC and its remaining opponents chiefly the Sierra Club and the village of Harbor View occurred this week when FDS set a June 26 deadline for the state Environmental Review Appeals Commission to allow the project to move ahead or, in the words of Lance Traves, FDS project manager and environmental consultant, the project will be dead in Ohio.

The FDS plan calls for construction of a coking plant on 51 acres owned by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority near the Port of Toledo and the mouth of the Maumee River. The $800 million to $1 billion project was touted to create 1,500 to 2,000 temporary construction jobs and, most important, 150 good-paying jobs.

Legitimate concerns have been raised about environmental matters and about FDS s penchant for secrecy about its ownership. At the same time, the region, hit so hard by the struggling auto industry, could definitely use the jobs this project would create.

What we don t need, however, is any more delay. Several tentative groundbreaking dates have come and gone and not one symbolic shovelful of dirt has been turned. FDS says Harbor View and the Sierra Club are responsible for the overlong appeals process; Harbor View and the Sierra Club accuse FDS of the same. In fact, it appears that both sides have engaged in foot-dragging when it suited their purposes.

Enough is enough. Toledo, Oregon, and the port authority have expended vast amounts of time, energy, and treasure on this project but have nothing to show for it. ERAC should rule at the earliest possible moment, either lighting a blaze under the coke plant or damping its fire.

If the plant is abandoned, at least then local officials could turn their attention to other projects that have a better chance of delivering on the promise of putting Toledo-area people to work.

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