Two environmental groups are planning to sue the state Department of Environmental Protection for failing to renew an expired air pollution permit in a timely fashion for a Springfield coal burning plant that they say is likely violating air quality standards.
The Springfield-based Arise for Social Justice and the Partnership for Policy Integrity, an environmental research organization, say the Solutia manufacturing plant, which burns coal to generate heat and power for its factory that makes auto and other layered glass, has been emitting air pollution in levels known to harm human health.
The groups commissioned an independent air pollution modeling of the facility and said the results show Solutia’s coal emissions are likely causing a violation of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standard for sulfur dioxide and possibly of nitrogen dioxide, which can contribute to poor air quality in the summer months.
“Our modeling shows that coal emissions from the Solutia facility create hot spots of (sulfur dioxide) pollution up to 50 percent greater than .... health standards allow,” said Mary Booth director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity.
A spokesman for the state DEP said it had not yet received notice it was being sued. When it does receive it, “We will review it and are certainly willing to discuss this information with the interested groups. This facility has submitted its permit renewal application in a timely manner, as required,’’ said the spokesman, Ed Coletta, in a statement. “In the meantime, it continues to operate under the existing permit.”
The state agency has been hard hit with budget cuts.
A spokeswoman for Eastman Chemical Company, which owns Solutia, said the company does not believe Solutia is exceeding air quality standards because state real-time data show that Massachusetts is meeting federal air quality standards. She said the company did not have a chance to review the environmental groups' data before they learned of the intent to sue.
“Solutia believes that close examination of the models and underlying assumptions used will clearly demonstrate that the results presented by PFPI/Arise are overly conservative and unrealistic,’’ Eastman said in a statement. “We would like to have our renewed permit in-hand, but appreciate the fact that Mass DEP is resource limited and they are working as quickly as they can to get us our permit. In the meantime, we continue to operate in accordance with our existing permit.”
The environmental groups said they contacted Eastman before filling the notice and got no response.
“We are looking forward to DEP re-opening the permit for this antiquated facility, and are optimistic that any new permit will effectively eliminate their use of coal,’’ said PFPI attorney Kelly Bitov.
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