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Two of Michigan's biggest industrial polluters get "updated" permits

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State environmental officials have agreed to update air quality permits for two of the state’s biggest and most polluting industrial facilities.

Dearborn’s Marathon oil refinery and Dearborn’s Severstal steel plants have had trouble complying with their state permits in recent years.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality now agrees with the companies contention that some of the old standards were too strict. The updated permits relax some emissions rules, while strengthening others.

This permitting process has been controversial, in part because the state allowed both facilities to “correct” old permits, rather than go through the process of getting a new one.

But Lynn Fielder, Assistant Division Chief at the MDEQ’s air quality division, says that happens frequently when facilities “find their operations aren’t exactly as they originally thought.”

Fiedler says that in both Marathon and Severstal’s cases, the MDEQ agreed with the companies’ contention that they couldn’t meet those initial standards.

“And now we are working to make sure they have a permit that reflects their operations, and one that we can make sure they comply with,” says Fiedler. She says the new rules are still compliant with all state and federal air quality laws.

The process was also controversial because of both plants records of non-compliance with their permits. Fielder says the state will continue pursuing enforcement actions that hold both facilities accountable for  past violations.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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