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DEQ Approves Steel Plant's Request for Higher Pollution Emissions; Neighbors Plan Appeal

Residents of a nearby neighborhood says their complaints about the steel plant's pollutants feel on deaf ears.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved Severstal Dearborn's request for higher pollution standards. (Patch file photo)
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved Severstal Dearborn's request for higher pollution standards. (Patch file photo)

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has approved higher emissions standards for the Severstal Dearborn, even though one officials with agency called the steel plant “the most egregious facility in the state” as recently as two years ago.

The decision was announced Monday, the Detroit Free Press reports. The newspaper had previously reviewed email correspondences critics said suggested a too-cozy relationship in which Michigan Economic Development Corp. officials tried to sway the regulatory agency to lower the pollution standards for Severstal.

Severstal officials said in their request for a higher emissions that the new permit would reflect the plant’s actual emissions. Grandfathering the permit would mean Severstal is governed by 2006 rules rather today’s more stringent pollution standards.

The DEQ agreed to both requests.

In a statement, DEQ Air Quality Division Chief Vince Hellwig acknowledged that the agency has issued 38 notices of violation to Severstal since 2010, and that the state attorney general’s office the the U.S. Justice Department are now involved in enforcement actions against the plant because past violations haven’t been corrected to officials’ satisfaction.

That’s a separate issue, Hellwig said.

“The enforcement is about yesterday,” he said. “The permit we announce today is about tomorrow, and we are pleased to finally have a clear, reliable permit for one of the state’s largest industrial operations.”

The 100-page permit issued to Severstal is one of the most comprehensive ever issued by the agency, Lynn Fielder, the assistant chief in the air quality division, said. The emissions threshold has been raised, but at the same time, Severstal agreed to monitoring, reporting and additional smokestack testing, Fielder said.

Neighbors, who told the newspaper they didn’t think the DEQ ever listened to their concerns, are looking to environmental attorney Chris Bzdok to press the matter. He said his clients “plan to contest this by every means available in court.”


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