Last night we had our final hearing on the proposed permits to pollute requested by Lafarge our number one polluter here in Alpena Michigan. As usual the MDEQ said they would listen to all of our concerns and follow the law in making their final decision. What that has meant in the past is "We are here to listen before we decide to ignore them." In all the permits to pollute applied for by Lafarge since 1988 not a single permit has been denied. In most cases the same reasons apply. The MDEQ has determined that any or all emissions or pollutants emanating from this facility is protective to human health and the environment.
To see some of the comments made you can go to www.alpenanews.com . Times have changed from earlier hearings. It was almost mandatory for Lafarge's employees to attend the hearings. They were issued t-shirts and white hats with the Lafarge logo. In my younger days it used to be only the good guys that wore white hats. Only Lafarge employees or contractors doing business with Lafarge spoke in favor of these permits. Most were unaware or knew nothing about the health effects of mercury. I know jobs are important. We are not against jobs we need them. They have no union to protect them so it is important that they speak in favor of anything that will protect them. I do not know if I envy them or feel sorry for them. The way they praise Lafarge reminds me of Adam and Eve in The Garden of Eden. They had no clothes, no roof over their head and only one apple between them and they thought they were in paradise.
Past tax abatements to Lafarge required them to maintain required amount of employees. The new abatement does not do this. The 75 million to update the plant will definitely have updated automation. Other plants have done so eliminating many employees. The Bath Ontario facility has between 35 and 50 employees. The fleet of ships that Lafarge is not supposed to own is being replaced by barges and tugs. The 5 ships had 24 or more crew. The tugs have 7 or 8. That is 85 less right there. How many will be left of the 290 in the plant itself?
At a recent public input session to gather information to gather residents' input for a comprehensive master plan for Alpena's future They were asked to identify the assets and issues facing the city. They were jobs, employment and the environment. Of all the units of government, city, township and county guess how many elected officials show up at the MDEQ hearing. ONE!!!
When a company spends 1/4 of a million in gifting and advertising one is careful not to offend. Lafarge also knows how to purchase what it needs to keep businesses in line. You spend a little and give the impression that there will be more. Who wants to jeopardize future income?
One thing that really irritates me is that a permit to pollute does not cost anything. The MDEQ always seems strapped or dependent on politics to get by. In a past letter to them I said if that was the case we would take up a collection out of our own pockets to have them deny a couple. They could always use a couple of bucks and it would make us pretty tinkers dam happy.
Bill Freese, Director
Huron Environmental Activist League