Michigan has plan to reduce Detroit air pollution

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Michigan’s plan to reduce air pollution in a particularly vulnerable area of Detroit is now in the hands of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

State officials have worked since 2010 to put together steps that will bring down levels of harmful sulfur dioxide in southwest Detroit. The plan targets four industrial operations over emissions of the gas, which has been linked to a host of respiratory illnesses.

Under the state’s plan:

■DTE Energy Co.’s River Rouge Power Plant would permanently close one of its coal-fired boilers by the end of the year.

■DTE’s Trenton Channel Power Plant would shut down four of its five coal-fired boilers this year.

■Carmeuse Lime kilns would vent sulfur dioxide gases from a new 120-foot smokestack by October 2018 in an effort to better disperse the gases and limit their impact.

■U.S. Steel would be required to reduce its sulfur dioxide emissions by the end of the year as dictated by a new state regulation currently in the pipeline. That regulation is expected to be approved in the coming weeks.

In 2010, after the EPA enacted tightened emissions restrictions, an air quality monitor in southwest Detroit registered a sulfur dioxide concentration of more than 90 parts per billion, over the 75 ppb action level. The overage required corrective action and since that time, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality has worked with the region’s largest industrial operations to find a solution.

“We need to have enforceable restrictions on facilities,” said Lynn Fiedler, chief of DEQ’s air quality division. “That can either be done through a rule, a consent order or through permit. Any of these three methods are equally as good as long as we get (emissions) down to the number we need to.”

Some environmental groups, while embracing the reductions in harmful gases, oppose the DEQ’s approach to addressing industrial polluters. Officials with the Michigan Environmental Council believe industrial operations should all be held to a single over-arching standard.

In addition, the group believes that, instead of accommodating coal-fired plants, state officials should be expediting their elimination.

“We keep spending more and more money on these plants that just are marginally performing units,” said James Clift, MEC’s policy director. “If you look at the pollution and the public health impacts, and calculated that against the cost of replacing those plants, it would be a simple answer that we should not continue operating them.”

JLynch@detroitnews.com

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