State Answers: MDEQ responds to public comment on biomass plant

HOUGHTON – Before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued the L’Anse Warden Electric Co. a permit to install and consent order Monday, it responded to questions asked during a preceding public comment period.

The MDEQ Air Quality Division’s “Response to Comments” documents addressed some issues raised by public comments and explained why it did not consider others.

The permit to install and consent order addressed specific violations of the biomass plant’s Renewable Operating Permit, including high hydrochloric acid (HCl) and fugitive dust emissions, but not other pollutant emissions which have always been reported within legal limits.

The operating permit will be revised in the “near future,” according to the Response to Comments documents.

In the meantime, the plant will have to comply with the permit to install and consent order if it wants to avoid expensive fines for noncompliance. Those could add up fast at up to $10,000 per day per violation, and would be in addition to the $108,700 the company has to pay the state by the end of the month to cover the violations.

Because of the comments, the company will have to repair its emission stack no later than Sept. 30, 2017, even though the MDEQ found HCl emissions did not exceed its standards regardless of the dilapidated condition of the stack.

People were also concerned that previous stack tests were done when LWEC was not operating at full capacity.

“Stack testing should be done at maximum production levels or at a minimum at production levels representative of normal operations,” the MDEQ stated, but added, “The company has stated the boiler is not capable of operating at the production levels contained in the previous permit.”

Because of this, the permit lowers the maximum rate the company can burn railroad ties to 17 tons per hour.


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