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Published: Saturday, 6/12/2004

Canada joins opposition to Oregon coke plant

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Canada's federal environmental agency yesterday became the latest governmental entity to oppose plans for the FDS Coke Plant in Oregon.

Environment Canada - the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - said that pollutants drifting across Lake Erie could exacerbate air pollution in Windsor and other parts of Ontario, plus the lake's water quality. A similar claim on behalf of neighboring Monroe County and the Great Lakes in general was made June 3 by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

"The transport issue has not been fully considered," Sebastien Bois, Environment Canada spokesman, said. "We are supportive of the concerns raised by the Michigan DEQ and hope they will be taken into account by the Ohio EPA."

The Ohio EPA plans to announce a decision about U.S. Coking Group LLC's permit application on Monday, Dina Pierce, Ohio EPA spokesman, said.

Doing so then accommodates the applicant's request for a decision before its self-imposed deadline of June 15, she said.

Some 474 counties in 31 states, including Lucas, Wood, Allen, Monroe, and Lenawee counties, face potentially deal-breaking restrictions for industrial projects issued permits on June 15 or later because of tougher U.S. EPA pollution laws for smog-forming ozone. Environment Canada raised its objections yesterday even after the agency had participated in a five-way conference call that officials held on Thursday in an attempt to smooth out cross-border concerns. In addition to Environment Canada and the Ohio EPA, those participating included the U.S. EPA, the On-

tario Ministry of the Environment, and the Michigan DEQ.

A draft permit the Ohio EPA has issued would allow the coke plant to discharge more than eight million pounds of air pollutants each year, including as many as 680 pounds of mercury.

Mercury, long known to cause brain disorders and reproduction problems, is one of the primary triggers for Great Lakes fish consumption advisories.

It also is one of seven persistent and toxic metals that Great Lakes governors agreed in 1988 to curb as much as reasonably possible by requiring that all new facilities install the most efficient technology on the market at a given time. The Michigan DEQ claims that has not happened in U.S. Coking Group's proposal. The gubernatorial agreement was drawn up by the Council of Great Lakes Governors, which Gov. Bob Taft has chaired since 2001.

Oregon Mayor Marge Brown has called a press conference for 2 p.m. Monday to reaffirm her administration's support for the project and to convey impressions of a visit Thursday to a similar facility in Indiana.

The mayor said yesterday she was "totally impressed" by her tour of that facility and is more convinced than ever that U.S. Coking Group will build a state-of-the-art coke plant. Mike Sheehy, council president, said he received a similar impression from the tour. "As far as a coke facility goes, I was reasonably satisfied it was a clean process," he said.

The applicant's lead environmental consultant, Hull & Associates Inc., of Toledo, has said repeatedly that only a fraction of the permitted pollutants would be released. It has declined to provide its anticipated discharge figures, citing it as proprietary information.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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