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E-M:/ power plant not so clean a citizen

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>

For immediate release	Contact:  Dave Dempsey, MEC, 517-487-9539
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 1999			Rob Perks, PEER, 202-265-7337


	A so-called "Clean Corporate Citizen" recognized by the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality in December 1998 has racked up over 700
violations of state and federal air quality rules, according to documents
uncovered by the Michigan Environmental Council and a Washington,
D.C.-based watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER).  Top DEQ officials ordered that the violations be
overlooked so the power plant could qualify for the award, which brings
relaxed regulatory review over future violations, according to information
contained in the files.

	The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, show
the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette has consistently violated state
and federal opacity regulations.  Owned by Wisconsin Electric Power
Company, the facility is infamous for the plume of reddish-brown smoke that
trails from its stacks over Lake Superior.

	"The DEQ's files confirm what the people of Marquette see with their own
eyes - this power plant is not a clean citizen, but a polluter," said Lana
Pollack, MEC's President.  "The Clean Corporate Citizen recognition was
awarded for political, not environmental reasons."

	"Either the fix is in over this award or Russ Harding has re-defined the
word 'clean' to benefit a chronic polluter," said Rob Perks, PEER's
National Field Director.  "Either way, I'd hate to see what DEQ considers a
'dirty' corporate citizen."

	According to the documents, during the last quarter of 1996 and the first
quarter of 1997, Presque Isle Power Plant reported numerous opacity
readings ranging from 21 percent to 99 percent.  The AQD's administrative
rules limit opacity levels to 20 percent.  But DEQ's Air Quality Division
Chief said the compliance by the plant with opacity limits was considered
"an acceptable level of performance" by the division and would not
therefore interfere with the Clean Corporate Citizen designation.
"Opacity" is an indicator of the concentration of soot emitted from a

Under DEQ rules, so-called Clean Corporate Citizens receive special breaks,
including faster air permit processing.  DEQ is now proposing to expand the
breaks to allow companies to reduce water quality monitoring, slash the
number of water pollution reports to the state, and undergo fewer DEQ water
quality inspections.

	Pollack said the documents raise disturbing questions about how the Clean
Corporate Citizen program may be chilling environmental enforcement that
would otherwise take place.  "If this power plant had not been working with
DEQ to get special status, would the agency have initiated enforcement
action for these blatant violations of air quality rules?  Companies that
are hoping to get the designation are likely to enjoy special treatment
from a DEQ all too eager to let polluters off the hook."

	PEER is a national alliance of natural resource professionals in state and
federal agencies, which promotes environmental ethics and government
accountability.  MEC is a coalition of 55 Michigan environmental
organizations protecting Michigan's people and environment.


	The documents show:

*  In August of 1997, after the company had informed DEQ of its intent to
become a Clean Corporate Citizen, a DEQ inspection found the company had
violated opacity limits in state rules 709 times and had exceeded a 27%
opacity threshold 445 times.  Although the inspection report said the
"facility will be issued a letter of violation" for both state and federal
rules, there is no sign of such a letter in the files.

* The company was issued a letter of violation May 22, 1998 for violating a
permit condition requiring maintenance of slopes on its coal piles of 30
degrees or less.  This violation was later corrected.

* Several Marquette citizens wrote the company to oppose its proposed clean
status, with one saying, "Who do you think you are fooling? [A]lmost every
morning I witness a brown-gray plume of particulate material streaming out
over the land or lake…We breathe the air tainted with the spoils of your
coal burning operation and eat the fish contaminated by the effluent from
the stacks that goes into the lake."

*  In 1996, according to DEQ figures, the plant ranked 6th highest among
Michigan's coal-fired power plants for emissions of nitrogen oxides (10,898
tons) and 7th highest for releases of both sulfur dioxide (19,056 tons) and
carbon monoxide (3,778,670 tons), according to DEQ records.

* Grandfathered through a loophole in the Clean Air Act that enables it to
escape state-of-the-art air pollution controls, Presque Isle emits nitrogen
oxides at a rate almost 4 times more than what would be allowed from a new
facility and emits sulfur dioxides at rate almost 3.5 times more than a new
facility would be permitted.

Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912

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