Baraga County should send message on Warden: FOLK

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette The L’Anse Warden Electric Company, as seen from the snowmobile trail. The red pipe, now decommissioned, was used to blow chipped railroad ties across Falls River to the power plant.

L’ANSE — Catherine Andrews, L’Anse resident and board member with Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK), presented the Baraga County Board with a draft resolution supporting stronger permit guidelines for the L’Anse Warden Electric Company (LWEC) at the board’s regular meeting on Monday night.

“I’m not expecting any vote or anything today,” Andrews said.

A resolution from the County Board would be non-binding, Chairman Mike Koskinen pointed out. Koskinen agreed to review the proposed resolution and the information it references, which Andrews also supplied.

The resolution references an analysis by Stephen Lester of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice in Virginia. The analysis reviews a report prepared by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The resolution also references recommendations made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made in 2016 following dust complaints and an emissions test at LWEC in September 2015 that showed elevated hydrogen chloride emissions.

“They(LWEC) have made some changes, which we really appreciate, but with the addition of the pellets… the toxic pollutants will be increased instead of reduced,” Andrews said.

LWEC is changing their permit with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to allow the burning of engineered fuel pellets made from pre-consumer packaging waste.

The proposed resolution supports the installation of two ambient air monitors, a meteorological tower, and devices to measure the proportions of fuels in the LWEC fuel mix. The EPA recommended all three of these in 2016. The resolution also supports the installation of Maximum Achievable Control Technologies as used in other plants to control gas emissions associated with burning engineered fuel pellets.

The final point on the resolution suggests requiring LWEC to contract with an independent company to perform annual stack tests.

“The stack test that they failed in 2015 was the first stack test they’d had in four years,” Andrews said. “Because they hadn’t had a test in four years, we don’t know if that amount was that high for the four years previous to that, or not.”

In September 2016, the EPA sent a letter to the MDEQ permit section supervisor with several recommendations to help ensure LWEC’s Clean Air Act compliance, which included emissions compliance testing every three years, “due to the historic compliance issues at this facility.”

“We don’t think these are unreasonable, most of these were recommended by the EPA to begin with,” Andrews said. “We’re not advocating shutting it down, like some people might think. We just want to be sure as long as this plant is operating in the village, that it should be required to meet strict pollution control standards.”

Andrews acknowledged a resolution from the County Board would not be binding but hoped it would send the message it cares about the pollution coming out of the plant.

“It’s up to the DEQ and the EPA,” Koskinen said.