United States Reaches Agreement with Suncoke Energy Resolving Clean Air Violations at Plants in Illinois and Ohio
SunCoke Energy Inc. and two of its subsidiaries have agreed to pay $1.995 million to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations of emission limits at the Gateway Energy and Coke plant in Granite City, Illinois, and the Haverhill Coke plant in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, announced the Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The companies will also spend $255,000 on a lead abatement project in southern Illinois to reduce lead hazards in owner-occupied low income residences with priority given to families with young children or pregnant women. The companies will pay a penalty of $1.27 million to the United States, $575,000 to the State of Illinois, and $150,000 to the State of Ohio. Illinois and Ohio are co-plaintiffs in this case.
“This settlement is good news for communities in Illinois and Ohio, who will benefit from these substantial reductions in harmful air pollution and enjoy cleaner, healthier air to breathe for many years to come,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher. “It also reflects our continuing commitment to protecting the people and environment of the United States through the vigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act.”
“The substantial upgrades required by today’s settlement will reduce air pollution that can harm public health and the environment,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is committed to reducing toxic air pollution from sources that have an impact on the health of communities.”
“This settlement provides a long-term solution to protect air quality and control emissions,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “We will continue to work with other agencies to protect Ohio families from environmental harm.”
“The facility upgrades and stricter emission limits mandated in this settlement will dramatically reduce harmful pollution levels and improve overall air quality in the communities surrounding these facilities,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
In addition, the companies will spend approximately $100 million at the two heat recovery coking facilities to install equipment known as heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs) to ensure that hot coking gases are routed to pollution control equipment and not vented directly into the atmosphere. If future emissions exceed the requisite threshold at a third facility, in Middletown, Ohio, then SunCoke will have to install an additional HRSG at that facility to prevent uncontrolled venting of coking gases. They will also spend an estimated $700,000 on equipment to continuously monitor sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions at the Gateway and Haverhill facilities.
Further, the companies have agreed to accept more stringent emission limits than required in their current permits for SO2 and particulate matter and, in the case of the Gateway Facility, lead. 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.
The primary violations alleged relate to excessive bypass venting of hot coking gases directly to the atmosphere, resulting in excess SO2 and particulate matter emissions from the facilities’ waste heat and main stacks, in violation of applicable permit limits. 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 additional equipment installed at the facilities will result in estimated emissions reductions of over 1200 tons per year of SO2, over 130 tons per year of particulate matter, 252 tons per year of hydrochloric and sulfuric acid gases and over 1800 pounds per year of lead.
Both facilities are located in areas that do not meet federal health-based standards for soot. The Illinois facility is located in an area that also does not meet the federal air pollution standard for lead.
Reducing illegal emissions of toxic air pollutants at facilities that have a significant impact on air quality and health in communities is one of EPA’s national enforcement priorities. Excess emissions from chemical plants and other industries can result in releases of hazardous air pollutants, or air toxics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, and seriously impact the environment.
The Consent Decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, 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