EGLE approves air-use permit for FCA's new Detroit assembly plant

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' new assembly plant on Detroit's east side marked another step toward starting production early next year after the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy on Friday approved an air-use permit for the site.

The Italian American automaker is expanding its former Mack Avenue Engine Complex into an assembly plant producing the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee and a new full-size, three-row Jeep SUV. The $2.5 billion investment into the plant and the adjacent Jefferson North Assembly Plant is creating 4,950 new jobs. The company already has hired more than 4,100 Detroiters for the open positions in accordance with a community benefits agreement made with the city and neighborhood residents.

Benny Wilkinson, wears protective equipment while working on at truck at Fiat Chrysler's Sterling Heights Assembly plant.

The proposed modifications to run an assembly line and paint shop on the site would slightly increase emissions of carbon monoxide and particles in the air, according to the state department whose Air Quality Division determined the project complied with state and federal air-quality requirements. The changes also slightly decrease volatile organic compounds that turn to vapor at room temperature, oxides of nitrogen that can damage human respiratory tracts and greenhouse gas emissions.

"We know that as we prepare to open our new state-of-the-art assembly plant and bring nearly 5,000 new jobs to Detroit," the automaker said in a statement, "FCA has a great responsibility — and plan — to minimize the environmental impact on the community for this and future generations."

Fiat Chrysler also has installed an ambient air-monitoring station on the north side of its property to test air quality as requested by neighboring residents. When manufacturing begins, the results will be included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's air-monitoring database.

The department is still reviewing an air-use permit for updates to Jefferson North. The company has requested to operate a two-tone paint line that allows the roof or side panels of a vehicle be painted a different color than the rest of it. That type of line releases more emissions, but the company says they will offset them with upgrades made elsewhere in the facility.

"We are pleased that Michigan EGLE approved the Mack air permit," the company added, "and look forward to continuing discussions on our Jefferson North application."

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble