Proposed coke plant raises concerns for neighboring communitiesWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Bihn doesn’t know her possible new neighbors, but she’s leery about what their presence in her community could mean.
Bihn, a member of Oregon City Council, is concerned about the amount of air and water pollution a proposed industrial facility to be located along the border of Oregon and Toledo would release into the environment. The plant, which would produce coke, a byproduct of coal, for use in North American steel and foundry facilities, will be built on an area the City of Toledo pledged to keep as wetlands when it expanded its water treatment plant on York Street south of the site, said Bihn, executive director of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association.
“The site is right across the river from Point Place so those residents should be concerned about the potential pollution from it,” Bihn said. “Most communities would have a lot of interest, but Toledo seems to be apathetic toward environmental issues.”
Bihn is urging Northwest Ohio residents to attend an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency public information session and hearing on the proposed FDS Coke Plant on Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Clay High School cafeteria in Oregon.
The proposed plant would consume approximately two million tons of coal per year to produce about 1.4 million tons of furnace coke per year.
Construction of the coke plant and co-generation facility involves an investment of more than $800 million in Ohio, according to the FDS Coke Plant Web site.
The plant would recover heat from the coking process and provide steam for a co-generation facility planned for the site to produce electric power.
FDS expects to generate more than one million megawatt hours of electricity using steam produced by waste heat from the coke plant. The electricity produced at the co-generation facility would be enough to supply power to an estimated 100,000 homes with no additional pollutants, FDS claims.
Amp Ohio will manage the cogeneration facility and the electricity produced there would be added to the grid for public use.
The proposed coke plant would be located on approximately 50 acres of land along the border of Toledo and Oregon between the CSX railroad tracks and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority docks north of Millard Avenue. The land is owned by the port authority and currently leased to CSX Railroads.
Once the FDS Coke Plant receives final permit approval, CSX has agreed to release its lease so the port authority can lease the site to the developers of the proposed coke plant, according to Matt Sapara, director of development for the port authority.
Lucas County loaned the port authority $500,000 to make improvements to the property. Some of it was used for surveying the property, consulting fees and infrastructure costs, Sapara said.
“We recognize the value in the land and transportation assets around it,” Sapara said. “They chose this site for the transportation and the area’s background in manufacturing.”
The Ohio EPA issued a third draft modified air pollution control permit-to-install for the FDS coke plant Oct. 30. An original permit-to-install was issued in June 2004 and a modified permit was issued to the company in September 2005.
The 2005 modified permit was nullified in May 2007 by the Environmental Review Appeals Commission following an appeal by the village of Harbor View. The small village located off Bayshore Road consists of about 50 homes, a post office/village hall and the Harbor View Yacht Club.
The village and a small residential neighborhood of Oregon that surrounds it would be affected directly by the emissions from the proposed coke plant to be built west of it. That area already has the First Energy’s Bayshore Power plant to the north and the BP Oil refinery to the south.
“The Village of Harbor View gets nothing from it except the pollution,” said Dennis Sych, former mayor of the village. He said that all the tax revenue from it will go to the cities of Oregon and Toledo.
The site for the proposed coke plant is located on land within the cities of Oregon and Toledo. The two cities created a joint economic development zone for this project and will share any tax revenues from it.
The latest EPA permit would require FDS to install air pollution control equipment to capture pollutants from coal handling, crushing, stamping, coking and cooling. It also sets limits for levels of lead, mercury, hydrochloric acid, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants.
Most of the emissions limits in the current permit are more stringent than those in the 2004 permit. Sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions will be continuously monitored with periodic emissions testing, detailed record keeping and reporting required, according to the Ohio EPA.
The permit would require the facility to incorporate the latest mercury emission controls with a condition to study the effectiveness of those controls. About 90 percent of the mercury emissions would be captured and not released into the environment.
Ohio EPA does not have any reason to believe that the emissions of mercury from this facility are likely to cause any adverse health effects. It analyzed the anticipated mercury emissions and compared them to state and federal guidelines for protecting people against acute or chronic exposure to mercury.
“We have an opportunity to increase our reliance on the domestic steel industry with this coke plant and decrease the amount of coke imported for steel production,” Sapara said.
A group of entrepreneurial investors have been working with a small core team of companies to bring the coke plant project to Toledo. FDS Coke Plant LLC is the limited liability corporation established by the current investors to take the project through construction and start-up.
“We don’t know who the owners of this project are. The identity of the owners of the proposed plant has not been revealed to the public,” Bihn said referring to FDS Coke Plant. “The public has a right to know about the owners and operators of this project.”
Sapara said there is no mystery about the owners who are a small group with a history of experience in the coke business. He was certain they would be represented at the meeting.
FDS Coke Plant is not an Ohio company as it filed as a foreign limited liability company with the Ohio Secretary of State. However, it is registered as a domestic limited liability company in the State of Delaware.
Two other LLCs related to the project have been filed. The registration of FDS Coke Holdings LLC in 2005 known as U.S. Coking Group LLC was the early stage developer of the project. The nominated officers of FDS, listed on the company’s web site, include George Weber as president, John Kitzmiller as chief financial officer, and Kathleen Jarema as secretary and treasurer. Jarema will also serve as vice president and project director for the coke plant and Kitzmiller as project controller.