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Published: Tuesday, 7/17/2007

Ohio agency won't pledge to reinstate coking permit

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency told Oregon officials yesterday that FDS Coke Plant LLC is not assured of getting the terms of its 2005 permit reinstated, despite Gov. Ted Strickland's successful courting of the state legislature last month for the power to do so.

Chris Korleski, in his first statement about the controversy, said in a letter to Oregon and its mayor, Marge Brown, that he will rely on his technical experts to "ensure that my action on the modification request is prudent, lawful, and reasonable."

"We will review this application carefully and, notwithstanding my predecessor's decision to issue a modified [permit] in 2005, I must emphasize that I will exercise my own independent judgment as to the merits of the application," Mr. Korleski's letter stated.

FDS in 2004 was granted a permit from former Ohio EPA Director Chris Jones for the coking portion of what is now a proposed $800 million coking and co-generation power plant on 51 acres.

The site, owned by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, is along Lake Erie's Maumee Bay where the cities of Toledo and Oregon meet.

The unidentified consortium of investors behind the project negotiated softer environmental regulations in 2005 via a modified permit issued by Mr. Jones' successor, Joe Koncelik.

But that modification was voided on June 1 by the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission, which ruled Ohio EPA directors had no authority to ease up on permits under appeal.

The 2004 permit, though valid, is still under appeal by the Sierra Club and the village of Harbor View.

Mr. Strickland responded by getting legislative approval for Ohio EPA directors to modify permits under appeal. He signed that into law as an amendment to the state's new fiscal budget that took effect July 1.

In anticipation of the new law, FDS filed on June 22 to get terms of the 2005 modification reinstated.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner blasted the company for doing that, saying it should live by the more restrictive 2004 permit.

Oregon City Council echoed that with a July 9 resolution in support of the 2004 permit.

FDS said recently that the 2004 permit is viable, though not as practical as what was afforded under the modification that Mr. Koncelik issued.

Mayor Brown, in her letter to Mr. Korleski, said he should veer from the 2004 permit only in areas where greater environmental protection can be achieved.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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