U.S. Coking Group got authorization yesterday to build the latest version of its proposed FDS Coke Plant along Lake Erie's Maumee Bay, while Envirosafe Services of Ohio Inc. got a green light to pile electric arc furnace dust 74 feet higher at its hazardous waste landfill in Oregon.
The two permits were issued separately by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which also announced that it will take comments on plans to fill 0.69 acres of a wetland for the coke project.
Comments on the wetland project will be accepted by the Ohio EPA at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 at Oregon City Hall, 5330 Seaman Rd. The agency also will take them in writing through Oct. 11.
The site has no trees and is at Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority Facility 2 in Toledo.
U.S. Coking Group, a consortium of unidentified investors, is being represented by Francis X. Lyons, a former Midwest regional administrator for the U.S. EPA who yesterday said the group was pleased by the Ohio EPA's new permit. He described it as a modification of an existing permit issued in June, 2004.
That's a big distinction, one that the Ohio Attorney General's Office reviewed for days before yesterday's announcement.
If changes are deemed substantial enough to start the permitting process anew, U.S. Coking Group could be subject to more costly federal EPA regulations for smog-forming ozone that could make the project unfeasible.
Those regulations took effect days after the project was submitted in 2004. With overtime help from the Ohio EPA and the city of Toledo, the applicant beat the deadline.
Mr. Lyons said financing and insurance issues still need to be worked out. But he said the coke plant should cost between $450 million and $500 million. Construction likely would begin in the fall or spring and take two years, he said.
"The company is pleased this significant milestone has been achieved. We look forward to proceeding with the project," Mr. Lyons said.
The project's chief opponent is the Sierra Club, which maintains that Ohio EPA Director Joe Koncelik lacks the legal authority to issue a new permit while the 2004 document remains on appeal. Both U.S. Coking Group and the Sierra Club appealed it for different reasons.
While the Ohio EPA said that its recent negotiations were intended to resolve U.S. Coking Group's appeal, Sierra Club attorney Dennis Muchnicki claimed the agency "capitulated to the demands of FDS again."
Agency spokesman Dina Pierce disagreed but was unable to cite a specific example in which the Ohio EPA went against U.S. Coking's wishes.
U.S. Coking appealed on the grounds that the 2004 permit issued by former Ohio EPA Director Chris Jones was unfair for imposing an unprecedented 36-pound annual cap on mercury emissions.
The agency, under Mr. Koncelik, has agreed to be flexible on the mercury issue, while figuring on 51 pounds a year as a goal - not a requirement.
The agency will allow up to 48 days of uncontrolled venting for maintenance.
Meanwhile, the Ohio EPA issued Envirosafe a permit to vertically expand Ohio's only dump licensed for hazardous waste. A permit to renew operations is still pending.
Envirosafe wants to expand upward instead of outward to save money. It obtained approval to expand the landfill's only active waste pit, Cell M, by 74 feet.
Blade staff writer Erika Ray contributed to this report.
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