LANSING – Environmental groups called Monday for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in after the Department of Environmental Quality was in line to miss a deadline Monday for new sulfur dioxide emissions plans, but DEQ officials said the EPA had already been involved in the rulemaking discussions and were not planning any sanctions for the state.
The new state implementation plan being developed to meet requirements of the federal Clean Air Act was to be submitted Monday, and that plan included permit changes for two DTE coal-fired power plants and emissions reductions from a U.S. Steel plant.
“We’ve been fighting for years to stop DTE from polluting our communities and we have been relying on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to help us in that endeavor. The MDEQ has failed to act to clean up our air and protect our health, but this isn’t the end,” Dolores Leonard, a resident near one of the DTE plants said in a statement from Clean Energy Now. “The Environmental Protection Agency still has the opportunity to do what’s right.”
“DTE has shown a total disregard for the people who live in the shadow of their plants and are directly affected by sulfur dioxide and other emissions that impact them on a daily basis,” charged Regina Strong, director of the Michigan Beyond Coal Campaign for the Sierra Club.
But DEQ spokesperson Brad Wurfel said in a statement that the DEQ was acting. A public hearing is scheduled next week on the U.S. Steel changes, part of the state’s process for making such changes. The permit changes for the two power plants have been completed, he said.
“In this case, EPA is very aware that our process to produce Michigan’s State Implementation Plan for sulfur dioxide is moving along steadily and that it is a huge and complex challenge,” Wurfel said. “The deadline hasn’t been an issue between the state and federal regulators for some time. They’re aware that we will deliver this plan in the next couple months. Like us, they’re far more interested in Michigan getting the job done right, with ample public participation, than getting it done right now.”
Wurfel also noted that, while the region is still listed as not in compliance for sulfur dioxide, all of the recent air samples have shown the region meeting the 2010 air quality standards before the coming changes to the three plants.
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