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Final Wayne County sulfur dioxide emissions plan goes to EPA

picture of DTE Trenton Channel power plant
Courtesy of DTE Energy

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has submitted a final plan to curb sulfur dioxide pollution in Wayne County to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA deemed part of the county, including southwest Detroit and some downriver communities, in violation of new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide in 2013.

The MDEQ says the area as a whole now meets those standards, and the plan requires “four industrial sources in the area to make substantial reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions during the next 2½ years.”

Some community and environmental groups are concerned that the plan could leave pollution “hotspots” close to some industrial sources, though.

Ricky Junquera, Midwest spokesman for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, says the MDEQ’s plan relies heavily on shutting down some parts of two DTE Energy coal-fired power plants.

Junquera says that will decrease overall sulfur dioxide emissions, but without “modern pollution controls,” communities near those plants will still see emissions from the “remaining operational units.”

“You might find more pockets closest to the still-operating units falling out of attainment, or not having the air quality that everyone else enjoys,” Junquera said.

The EPA rejected a draft implementation plan the MDEQ submitted last year, noting that the plan wasn’t technically compliant because it still created some sulfur dioxide hotspots in computer models.

But the MDEQ says this plan includes “legally enforceable air permits” for the DTE plants and the Carmeuse Lime plant, which has to vent sulfur dioxide to a new smokestack. as well as a new state rule requiring emissions reductions at a U.S. Steel plant.

The MDEQ was supposed to submit a plan in April 2015. The EPA still needs to sign off on this one.

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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