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Environmental groups and local activists file to intervene in an EPA lawsuit against a DTE-owned plant

A view of Zug Island and surrounding industry from the Detroit River. EES Coke Battery turns coal into coke which is used to make steel.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A view of Zug Island and surrounding industry from the Detroit River. EES Coke Battery's plant on the island turns coal into coke which is used to make steel.

Three environmental groups have filed a motion to intervene in an EPA lawsuit filed against a DTE subsidiary.

In June, the Environmental Protection agency filed a suit against EES Coke Battery, LLC. The complaint alleges the plant violated the Clean Air Act after sulfur dioxide pollution increased at its plant on Zug Island between Detroit and River Rouge. That pollutant can cause serious health problems, including heart disease and respiratory issues. It's also been linked to premature death.

The environmental groups seeking to join the case are working on behalf of local activists.

“Those residents are the ones that have been impacted by the alleged violations that are at issue in this case. And so we just want to make sure their interests are directly being represented,” said Nick Leonard. He's the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, which is one of the groups behind the motion. The others are the Sierra Club and Earthjustice.

The EPA complaint asks the court to require pollution controls for sulfur dioxide at the coke manufacturer and “measures to redress the harm from the pollution, and a civil penalty.”

In some settlements, companies will offer communities pollution saving devices such as low-emission school buses or efficient heating and cooling for schools or public buildings.

In a statement emailed to Michigan Radio, DTE Energy said it has complied with all relevant regulations governing the operations conducted at EES Coke and it remains committed to responsibly operating the plant.

“For more than a century, DTE has been and remains committed to protecting the environment and the health and safety of the communities where we live and serve,” the utility stated.

DTE said it’s reviewing the recent court motion and it has no additional comments about the filing.

DTE Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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