The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) announced on November 15 that it had approved a minor source operating permit for a hot-mix asphalt plant near Flint, Michigan. The permit faced robust opposition from the community which was noted by EGLE to be one that is in “social and economic distress.” The state approved the permit application, and simultaneously asked the EPA to conduct an independent review to advise the state as to whether or not the permit fully complies with all requirements established by federal law, including those related to environmental justice. Specially, the state asked that the EPA provide guidance for addressing cumulative risk for disadvantaged communities, and called for a summit of state and federal leaders to discuss these policies and how they affect permitting decisions.
In defending its permitting actions, EGLE cited to a number of new restrictions it added to the final permit which are in addition to the requirements that would normally be applied to minor source air permits. Specially, the state added to the final permit a requirement barring the company from burning waste oil, limiting the sulfur content in the fuel, more stringent stack emission testing requirements, an enhanced fugitive dust plan, and mandated long and short term limits for volatile organic compounds. Despite these additional protections, a coalition of local groups opposed to the issuance of the permit claim that the EGLE never undertook a proper analysis of the cumulative impacts the plant would have on the community, and have indicated a potential challenge to the final permit.