Two Michigan lawmakers think the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should assume oversight of Severstal Dearborn, a steel plant with the notorious reputation as the state’s worst polluter operating in the state’s most polluted area.
The request came from Rep. George Darany, D-Dearborn, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit. They said a Detroit Free Press investigation detailing emails suggesting the Michigan Economic Development Corp. tried to sway state permitting officials to lower the standards for Severstal demands outside intervention, the newspaper said.
The emails to the Department of Environmental Quality were obtained through the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Severstal has asked the DEQ to approve more lenient pollution emission standards the factory.
Severstal Dearborn said the proposal before the DEQ is a “correction” that will align the permit to the amount of pollutants currently being released.
The DEQ, which as recently as two years ago said the plant was an “egregious” polluter that had a “total disregard … for the air quality requirements,” now appears poised to approve the change. The plant also wants to operate under 2006 rules put in place before more stringent emissions standards were adopted, and the emails suggest that MEDC officials created a “to-do” list on steps the plant needs to take to get the exception.
Tlaib said the emails give the appearance that the DEQ “has been guided through a process that does not put the people’s best interest first.”
The company has been received nearly two dozen citations for emissions violations from the DEQ and the federal EPA.
Darany, the minority vice chairman of the House Health Policy Committee, said the state needs to do more to protect the health and safety of its citizens.