Upgrades ‘coming much too late,’ Environment Hamilton says
The Ministry of the Environment is being accused of giving ArcelorMittal Dofasco “a sweetheart deal” that will allow the company to avoid prosecution for air-pollution violations at its coke ovens for the next five years.
Citizens group Environment Hamilton says it’s shocked that Dofasco won’t face any further prosecution if it adheres to a proposed ministry “preventative measures order” that will see $87 million in upgrades at the company’s coke-making operations.
The order includes the shutdown of a coke oven blamed for more than half of the air violations that saw Dofasco fined $390,000 last month after pleading guilty to six of 13 charges.
Environment Hamilton chair Jim Quinn, a McMaster University biology professor who has studied the harmful genetic effects of air pollution on herring gulls, criticized the ministry for letting maintenance of Dofasco’s three coke ovens slip over the years.
He said he’s concerned the ministry has now not only “swept away” all other outstanding air-emission infractions from 2012 and 2013, but also given the company relief from any new charges until 2019.
His group is calling for a much quicker deadline for making the upgrades outlined in the order, which is posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry for public comment until June 29.
“This seems to point to, in a sense, a culture of neglect by the Ministry of the Environment as well as a culture of entitlement by ArcelorMittal Dofasco,” Quinn said.
“Not only are these investments coming much too late, but they’re also being afforded a sweetheart deal in terms of time for completion of improvements.”
Ministry spokesperson Jennifer Hall rejected that the company is being given carte blanche on air violations and called five years “a reasonable timeframe to complete projects of this size and scope.”
She said Dofasco estimates the upgrades will cut cancer-causing benzo(a)pyrene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons emissions by 54 per cent, and benzene by 46 per cent.
“The ministry believes the best way to control emissions from Arcelor is to require the company to take action now, improve its operations and invest in new technology to reduce emissions,” Hall said in a written response to questions.
“The ministry will continue to take abatement action against the company if it does not operate within the requirements of the Preventative Measures Order and by their standard operating procedures, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute where appropriate.”
Dofasco didn’t respond to specific questions, but said in a written statement the upgrades show it “both plans and reacts appropriately and responsibly where there may be environmental or community impact from operations.”
“This strategy, which includes extensive work including flue repairs, oven wall repairs, as well as work to by-products plants, will bring significant improvement to the efficiency and environmental performance of the coke-making plants,” it said.