MDEQ sets southwest Detroit emissions compliance plan
State officials have put together a plan to bring southwest Detroit into compliance with federal air emissions guidelines and quell concerns among city residents who live near five major industrial plants.
Southwest Detroit has been considered a problem area for air pollution since 2010.
Testing showed high levels of sulfur dioxide beyond what was acceptable under regulations tightened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that year.
Sulfur dioxide is a gas produced by the burning of fossil fuels and through other industrial processes that has been linked to human respiratory illnesses.
The federal agency gave Michigan until this year to come up with a plan achieving compliance.
State efforts to curb and maintain sulfur dioxide levels have focused on five industrial plants in the Detroit area considered to be the main sources of the problem.
Those plants are:
■DTE Energy’s River Rouge Power Plant
■DTE’s Trenton Channel Power Plant in Trenton
■U.S. Steel in Ecorse.
■Carmeuse Lime and Stone in River Rouge.
■DTE’s EES Coke Battery Plant in River Rouge.
Officials with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality have approached the problem by negotiating with each company individually as part of the permitting process.
Critics have said that approach is too deferential to the polluters and that a single emissions restriction should be applied to all.
On Thursday, MDEQ released its emissions plan, making it available for public review. It includes different recommendations for each of the industrial plants.
“The air in Wayne County currently meets the federal sulfur dioxide standard, according to data from DEQ air monitors,” the department announced in a press release.
“The plan will ensure the area continues to meet the standard through a combination of revised permits for DTE Trenton Channel, DTE River Rouge, EES Coke and Carmeuse Lime to lower and better disperse their emissions.
“It also includes a proposed state rule that requires U.S. Steel to lower its sulfur dioxide emissions.”
Nick Schroeck, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, said his organization is preparing comments on the plan released last week.
He takes issue with the state’s approach.
“It certainly looks like (DEQ) was, rather than setting a protective standard, working to see what industry wanted and worked backward from there,” he said.
Schroeck added that it is unclear whether the state’s plan will actually result in attainment.
Others who have been critical of the state’s piecemeal approach to assuring air quality in the region were similarly unimpressed.
“We have some concerns that this does not go far enough,” said former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
The plan can be reviewed at www.michigan.gov/deq.
Michigan officials will host a public hearing on the compliance plan on Sept. 23 at River Rouge High School.
An information session will be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by an opportunity for public comment.