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2 environmental groups seek tougher pollution controls for Upper Peninsula renewable energy plant

Two environmental groups say the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) needs to do more to protect local residents from toxic pollutants from a renewable energy power plant in the Upper Peninsula.

The two groups, Michigan-based Friends of the Land of Keweenaw and Massachusetts-based Partnership for Policy Integrity, filed comments today with the MDEQ on the department's draft Renewable Operation Permit for the L'Anse Warden "biomass" plant, charging that the pollution standards at the plant are weak to nonexistent.

According to the two groups, the plant was converted from coal in 2009 and is allowed to burn chemically treated railroad ties and shredded tires.

"There are many, many reports in the paper and in letters to the MDEQ about a greasy toxic soot that's deposited on cars and boats and on the snow," said Mary S. Booth, Director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity. "People are breathing this stuff." 

Booth added, "L'Anse Warden's tagline of 'Bringing Green To Michigan' is a sad irony given that this plant emits toxic pollution with impunity."

The two groups want the MDEQ to hold a public hearing and to rewrite the permit with tighter testing, monitoring, and emission control standards.

The general manager of the L'Anse Warden facility declined to comment, saying the matter was in the hands of the MDEQ. The MDEQ did not respond to requests for an interview.