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Testimony from coke hearing available for review

By J. Patrick Eaken
Press Staff Writer  

A hearing conducted in Council Chambers by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency concerning a draft permit for air quality standards for a coking plant proposed in Oregon drew so much interest that the EPA extended the comment period from May 24 to June 3.

There were public officials, contractors, developers and others who say the technology in today's coke plants will prove irrelevant any expectations of excessive pollution. There were others, including citizens who live near the site (Port Authority's Facility 3), environmental organizations, and health care experts who say they have evidence that emissions from this plant will be harmful.

One group, Ohio Citizen Action, headed by Sandy Buchanan, is expressing concern that the procedures that led to the draft permit were tainted. Now the comment period has once again expired, and there is yet another local environment group forming with hopes of addressing concerns along the western basis of Lake Erie, the Maumee Bay Association, headed by former Oregon finance director Sandy Bihn.

The May 13 hearing drew enough testimony from public officials that a person can sort through it and find everything from four letter words, which have not been deleted from the official text, to other statements and words that would confuse the spell checker on any word processor. It is now public record.

In that regard, The Press has put the complete text from the hearing on its website so individuals who stand on either side of the issue can review the testimony and decide its value for themselves. Following are just a few of the quotes from the testimony.

"For you folks who are here in opposition, believe me, study the facts, don't listen to Chicken Little, the sky is falling, the sky is falling, again, because believe me, the sky is not falling, and we're looking for progress and we're looking for rebirth in not jus the steel industry but heavy industry and all industry in the American Midwest." (Oregon Councilman Mike Sheehy).

"We don't want any more dust. We don't want any more dirt. The Village of Harbor View has written a resolution, a resolution opposing the proposed coke facility in Oregon, Ohio, whose prevailing winds will carry millions of pounds of pollutants annually and will seriously impact the health and welfare of the residents of Harbor View and the surrounding area. We're not the only people that live there. There are residents of Oregon that do live back there, and it's like they are forgotten by Oregon." (Carl Stanoyevic, Harbor View Councilman)

"Our industry has been in the midst of severe recession for the past several years. We have struggled with high unemployment rates that have, at times, exceeded 30 percent amongst some crafts. Needless to say, the construction of the plant here would bring a great deal of relief to many families who live in this community. This 300 million dollar plant will generate as many as 1,000 construction jobs and 200 permanent positions. The economic impact of this project will help to reenergize an area that is in need of such help long after the construction's finished." (Richard Hodges, Executive Vice-President, Mechanical Contractors Association of Northwestern Ohio).

"As far as this permit, they talk about BAT technology, best available technology, and this company, I think what surprises me with this is usually a company will come in and they'll say we'll do everything we can to make this the very best permit we can. I find it difficult to understand why a community would try to beat the June 15 deadline when the Lung Association tells us that's a deadline for our breathing and our well-being and our health." (Sandy Bihn)

"We need this plant. We need these jobs. I work as a psychologist and an educator, and I see first-hand what happens when people are unemployed and underemployed." (James Seaman, Oregon City Council)

"I call on the working people who are indeed desperate and mistreated and misused and manipulated by projects like this to look a little bit of history. This is a 30-year phenomenon, folks. It's the job versus environment graymail blackmail game where they divide people. They make environmentalists pit themselves against workers. We all breathe and will have to breathe from the same atmosphere if this plant is built." (Terry Lodge).

"These jobs aren't just production jobs at a coking facility or Chessie system or truckers...There will be an increase in Hospice workers, there will be an increase in respiratory therapists and people who treat allergies and emphysema." (Terry Lodge)

"This project is not destroying a Greenfield piece of property such as a farm field or wooded land. This plant will take full advantage of an underutilized brownfield site." (Oregon Mayor Marge Brown)

"A recent news report indicated that the proposed plant had raised some flags regarding possible dangers. When I read that early one morning, I was deeply concerned about the tone of the news report...I was informed and I believe there were some errors or exaggerations in the description...the report did not take into account technology that will take place that would reduce whatever emission occurs by 90 percent, and so it is just not accurate...The article also assumed that all coal is to be combusted in the coke plant when, in fact, it will be cooked. Now, when I was told this, I didn't know what the hell that meant." (Toledo Mayor Jack Ford)

"Mike Sheehy spoke of, you know, him going into Toledo Coke and the amount of - you know, being ankle deep in the stuff. You know, we used to as kids try to steal pig iron to scrap it to get candy money, and it was filth. Today's technology is not going to allow you to do that, it's just not going to, and you guys even, if you were being paid off, you could not allow things like that to happen and used to happen, you know, in our father's or grandfather's days." (Bill Lorenzen, commercial real estate broker)

"In the eight years I lived on Corduroy Road in Oregon from 1994 to 2002 seven of my neighbors on my immediate block were diagnosed with cancer. I myself was diagnosed at the age of 38 years old with breast cancer in 2000. I had no family history or risk factors except for the toxic environment that I lived in. The same year I was diagnosed there were three moms in my son's fifth grade class diagnosed with breast cancer. You don't need my statistical chart to show that is a high incidence. One of my son's classmate's mom's died last year leaving two young boys to miss her."

The hearing began with a question period at 7p.m., which was off the record, although the chamber was packed at 6:30 and many people were left standing in the hall to listen to testimony via speakers. The official testimony which is recorded in the text commenced at 8:32 p.m. and adjourned at 11:28 p.m. The actual text of the testimony is 130 pages.

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