EGLE approves asphalt plant air permit; seeks federal guidance, support to address EJ concerns

November 15, 2021

EGLE Media Office, EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov, 517-284-9278

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has approved an air permit for a proposed Ajax Materials Corp. asphalt plant in Genesee Township with a host of site-specific conditions and restrictions. These additional restrictions provide safeguards to ensure compliance with the law and to better protect the community.

Simultaneously, the agency sought guidance and support from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in providing tools and strategies to improve public health in at-risk communities.

Ajax plans to locate in a neighborhood of color in social and economic distress. And while the permit was appropriately issued after the applicant met all requirements of air regulations, a letter sent from EGLE Director Liesl Clark to the USEPA today notes that the process "…highlights the limitations of Federal and State environmental regulations in addressing the concerns raised by Flint residents."

The permit received more than 340 comments from residents, environmental advocates and government agencies during the extended 83-day comment period, overwhelmingly opposed to the facility. Most objections were outside the scope of EGLE's authority to consider under applicable laws.

"It is vital that air permitting rules ensure consistent, clear rules so that they are not subject to arbitrary decisions," said Clark. "But it is abundantly clear in this situation, and many others across the nation, that the tools we are given to protect particularly distressed communities should be strengthened."

Clark said the agency took every measure it could within existing laws to protect residents in the plant's vicinity. As the permit was developed, EGLE consulted with the Michigan Department of Attorney General (MDAG) and other legal experts, other states that have faced similar situations and USEPA staff.

"While applying Federal and State laws according to our department's longstanding practice and consistently validated precedent-EGLE broke new ground on this permit in applying location-based environmental justice considerations to the process. In addition to our standard high level of attentiveness to public comment, including those offered by EPA Region 5, we were more proactive in our engagement with the community and use of our legal authority in this matter than we have been for any minor source permit in institutional memory."

The full letter to the USEPA is available here. The permit decision is available here.

Among the permit conditions:

  • Removing the company's ability to burn waste oil
  • Limiting the sulfur content in fuel
  • More stringent testing of stack emissions
  • Enhanced fugitive dust plan that includes additional paved areas
  • Long- and short-term limits for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including a VOC testing requirement

The approval starts a 90-day period during which anyone may appeal the decision to circuit court.

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