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SunCoke nears settlement with Ohio city

Keywords: Tags  coke, SunCoke Energy, Middletown Coke, Lisa Gordon

PITTSBURGH — After four years of legal wrangling, SunCoke Energy Inc. and the city of Monroe, Ohio, may be close to reaching a settlement over the company’s nearby Middletown coke operations.

Under the terms of the agreement proposed by Lisle, Ill.-based SunCoke, the company would provide additional air-quality protection at its facility and reimburse the city for more than $1 million in legal expenses.

The matter has been playing out in court since January 2009, when the city filed a lawsuit to ensure the company complied with the Clean Air Act in building the plant along city limits (AMM, April 22, 2009). More recently, elected officials and private citizens appealed a decision by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final air permit (AMM, Feb. 26, 2010).

As part of the proposed agreement, Middletown Coke would install a $1-million dust control system to minimize emissions from its coal piles, and build a 10-foot berm topped with pine trees around the coal inventory. In addition, the company would install an air monitor to measure sulfur dioxide levels which would be operated and maintained by the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency. If any malfunction occurs that causes uncontrolled emissions for more than 24 hours, the company would ease its coal processing to reduce pollutants being released, and the company would file reports on malfunctions with state regulators.

Middletown Coke also has offered to reimburse the city $1.15 million to cover legal expenses incurred over the past four years.

SunCoke said it was optimistic that the issue appears to have settled. "We believe that it’s in the best interests of the all parties involved to settle this dispute and move forward together," a company spokeswoman said. "We’ve worked in good faith to address issues raised by all parties involved, and we’re hopeful that the city of Monroe will vote to approve the agreement."

In a nonbinding first reading, Monroe City Council members voted 6-to-1 in favor of the proposal. The council is scheduled to make its final decision May 22.

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