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E-M:/ PEER PRESSURE



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Enviro-Mich message from Rob Perks <rperks@peer.org>
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For immediate release: July 1, 1999			Contacts:  Rob
Perks           (202) 265-7337
	
Dave Dempsey    (517) 487-9539

GROUPS ASK EPA TO TAKE OVER CONTAMINATED TANK CLEANUP
DEQ'S Harding Allowed Violator to Write Its Own Exemption From
Enforcement

"PUBLIC HEALTH DEMANDS FEDERAL INTERVENTION"

Lansing, MI...Citing heavy contamination of soil and groundwater and "a
clear threat to public health," two environmental organizations formally
petitioned the federal government yesterday to revoke state jurisdiction
over an iron-ore mine site in Marquette County.  This action by Public
Employee for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Michigan
Environmental Council (MEC) was prompted by the Department of
Environmental Quality's (DEQ's) chronic failure to force the mine to
stop contamination caused by its leaking underground storage tanks.  

The groups charge that, over the strong objections of his own managers,
DEQ Director Russell Harding allowed the attorneys of the Tilden Mine to
"ghost-write" a regulatory waiver for their clients that allows the mine
to benefit from far weaker clean-up standards. 

"Harding has proven once again his willingness to prevent DEQ's
professional field staff from doing their jobs in order to cut big
business an unfair break," commented Rob Perks, PEER's National Field
Director.  "When it comes to protecting the people and natural resources
of Michigan against this kind of pollution, the agency's official
response is 'Tanks, but no tanks.'"

Due to the state's inaction, PEER and MEC submitted what is called an
"over-filing petition,"  calling upon the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) to assume jurisdiction over the mine which is the site of
repeated hazardous chemical releases.  The petition contends:

	* DEQ has taken no action against the mine for at least five
confirmed releases of hazardous petroleum-related chemicals dating back
to late 1996; 
 	* DEQ has issued no penalties against the facility for numerous
other violations, including the mine's failure to report chemical spills
on time and its improper handling of heavily contaminated soil; and
 	* over the strong objections of his own program staff and
management at all levels, Director Harding recently approved a request
by Tilden executives to exempt the mine from the State's
federally-delegated ("Part 213") regulations governing the cleanup of
contamination from leaking underground tanks, in favor of less
stringent, unenforceable standards.

Harding's unprecedented decision, in which he forced the chief of DEQ's
storage tanks division to sign a waiver drafted by Tilden's attorneys,
departs substantially from DEQ's standard policy. According to the
petition, Harding's actions are not only highly unethical, but also show
a blatant disregard of federally-approved environmental rules.

"Agency top brass continues to give away Michigan's resources for free,
but ultimately it is the public who pays the price," stated Dave
Dempsey, MEC's Policy Director.  "If DEQ won't protect our environment,
then EPA will have to do it."

The joint petition requests that EPA (Region V) immediately step in to
initiate enforcement action against Tilden Mine for documented
violations of storage tank regulations.  It also asks EPA to ensure
adequate protection of public health by either taking over jurisdiction
of the mine cleanup or requiring Director Harding to reverse his
decision.
 
--END--

To read the petition to EPA, visit PEER's website: http://www.peer.org.


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