The United States and Indiana Reach Agreement With SunCoke Energy and Cokenergy to Resolve Clean Air Act Violations at Indiana Harbor Coke Plant
SunCoke Energy Inc., its subsidiary Indiana Harbor Coke Company (IHCC), and Cokenergy have agreed to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations relating to excess emissions of coke oven gases from their coke plant in East Chicago, Indiana, announced the Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Implementation of the Consent Decree’s requirements will result in estimated annual emissions reductions of 2,075 tons of coke oven emissions, which are hazardous air pollutants, and include 1,895 tons of SO2, 125 tons of particulate matter, 55 tons of volatile organic compounds, and 680 pounds of lead. In addition, under the settlement agreement Cokenergy will spend $250,000 on a lead abatement project in the East Chicago area to reduce lead hazards in schools, day-care centers, and other buildings with priority given to young children and pregnant women. Additionally, the companies will provide copies of reports submitted under the Consent Decree to two public libraries in East Chicago.
The settlement also requires comprehensive coke oven rebuilds to address oven leaks, including potential permanent shut down of the worst performing battery. The companies have agreed to enhanced monitoring and testing requirements, including two stack tests to measure lead emissions. Further, the settlement requires implementation of preventive maintenance and operations plans to minimize excess emissions. Finally, the companies will pay a $5 million civil penalty, to be split evenly between the United States and the State of Indiana.
“This settlement will result in significant reductions in harmful air pollution and is welcome news for East Chicago, an area which is currently not meeting national air quality standards for ozone,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood. “The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division is proud to have partnered with the EPA, the state of Indiana, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in achieving these results. Today’s action reflects our commitment to working together to enforce environmental laws.”
“Today’s settlement is one example of how EPA is committed to reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in communities across the country,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Lead exposure is a serious problem and reducing it is a priority for EPA.”
“We fight every day to protect the safety of Hoosiers and their families,” Attorney General Curtis Hill of the State of Indiana said. “This agreement goes a long way to protect Hoosiers and their families in Northwest Indiana and the East Chicago community.”
“I’m grateful to have worked with our federal partners to get this issue resolved,” said Commissioner Bruno Pigott of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. “It’s my hope that, now and in the future, this settlement will improve not only the air quality in Northwest Indiana, but also the quality of life for Hoosiers living in East Chicago.”
“This settlement provides a long-term solution to protect air quality and control emissions,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana Thomas L. Kirsch II. “We will continue to work with other agencies to protect Indiana families from environmental harm.”
The primary violations alleged relate to leaking coke ovens and excessive bypass venting of hot coking gases directly to the atmosphere, resulting in excess SO2, particulate matter, and lead emissions from the facility’s coke ovens and bypass vent stacks, in violation of applicable permit limits. SO2 contributes to acid rain and exacerbates respiratory illness, particularly in children and the elderly. Exposure to particulate pollution has been linked to health impacts that include decreased lung function, aggravated asthma and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. EPA has recognized that lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat in the United States for children ages 6 and younger. In addition, coke oven emissions are a known human carcinogen. Chronic (long-term) exposure in humans can result in conjunctivitis, severe dermatitis and lesions of the respiratory system and digestive system.
The Consent Decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. It is available on the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
IDEM has created a link on the agency’s website where the public will be able to access the documents that the companies submit to IDEM under the Consent Decree. Once the Consent Decree has become effective, documents submitted to IDEM will be uploaded to the dedicated link. The public will then be able to access the documents by going to: www.in.gov/idem/airquality/ and clicking the page entitled “Indiana Harbor Coke/Cokenergy Consent Decree.”