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Genesee Twp., MI— Despite strong opposition by Flint residents, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has approved an air permit for a proposed Ajax Materials Corp. asphalt plant in Genesee Township that will be located across the street from a City of Flint residential area.
EGLE announced the approval in a press release Nov. 15, which comes “with a host” of restrictions.
“These additional restrictions provide safeguards to ensure compliance with the law and to better protect the community,” the press release stated.
The permit conditions include: removing the company’s ability to burn waste oil, limiting the sulfur content in fuel, more stringent testing of stack emissions, enhanced fugitive dust plan that includes additional paved areas, and long- and short-term limits for volatile organic compounds.
EGLE held several public input sessions over an 83-day period and received more than 340 comments from residents, environmental advocates, and government agencies. Most were “overwhelmingly opposed” to the facility, the press release stated.
However, the majority of objections, which concerned the health of residents living in a minority community, were “outside the scope of EGLE’s authority to consider under applicable laws,” the press release stated.
EGLE officials sought guidance from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Attorney General, and other legal experts to find solutions, according to the press release.
EGLE Director Liesl Clark wrote a letter to USEPA Administrator Michael Regan Nov. 15 highlighting the legal restrictions preventing EGLE from addressing Flint residents’ concerns.
“It is vital that air permitting rules ensure consistent, clear rules so that they are not subject to arbitrary decisions,” Clark wrote. “But it is abundantly clear in this situation, and many others across the nation, that the tools we are given to protect particularly distressed communities should be strengthened.”
Flint residents and community organizations have held several rallies to protest the asphalt plant.
On Aug. 11, community members rallied outside St. Francis Prayer Center, which borders the location of the proposed plant, calling it an act of environmental racism.
“This is a minority neighborhood. It’s predominately African American. So, they’re really being discriminated against, because they’re going to be disproportionately exposed to all these all these toxins, pollutants, and smell. The smell from that plant is going to be atrocious,” Ted Zahrfeld said, chair of the St. Francis Prayer Center.
On Aug. 16, members of the Flint City Council formally objected to the air permit.
“The Mayor and the City Council members stands with the residents of Flint to fulfill its pledge in accordance with the City of Flint Declaration of Rights to assure in pertinent part residents and businesses a clean and safe environment, with clean air and a sanitary city,” their resolution read.
Residents, and anyone who opposes the plant, have 90 days to appeal the decision to circuit court.