Valley mills seek permits for pollution 

Pollution permits

For years, when watchdog groups wanted to keep an eye on what rules air polluters were required to follow, they often had to pore over dozens, if not hundreds, of industry documents, rulebooks and procedure manuals. At times, some of that information was not readily available to the public.

But a policy established by the Environmental Protection Agency called the Title V Program now consolidates all that information under one permit, providing “one-stop shopping” for public information on air emissions, compliance standards and reporting requirements.

On May 16, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will hold a public hearing on the draft Title V permits for Smurfit-Stone Container and Louisiana Pacific. The permits, which are granted every five years, are required for any industry emitting more than 100 tons of air pollutants or more than 10 tons of hazardous pollutants. Although the Title V program has been in place for years, DEQ is just now getting around to drafting permits for those facilities.

While Title V does not place new or stricter standards on industry, it was designed to improve compliance and help industry streamline its reporting procedures. However, in other states Title V has been used by industry as an opportunity to lobby for less stringent requirements.

As a result, some Missoula environmental groups want to ensure that these permits do not slip under the radar. At least seven environmental groups submitted comments on the DEQ’s Title V draft permits released in January.

“We want to let DEQ know that this is an important process and that it’s really important for citizens and watchdog groups to have a good permit to refer to when they want to see what these firms are doing,” says Alexandra Gorman of Women’s Voices for the Earth. “We want to have it all in one place so we can find out what industry should be doing and check whether or not they’re doing it.”

For example, Gorman notes that the draft permit for Smurfit-Stone Container does not include the state standards for hydrogen sulfide emissions. Although the 50 parts-per-billion standard is more for aesthetic than health reasons—hydrogen sulfide is the gas that causes the “rotten egg” odor near the mill—Gorman says it should be included, since Smurfit often exceeds those limits.

Nor does the Smurfit-Stone draft permit include the recently issued permit for seven temporary diesel generators that the mill uses to generate electricity.

DEQ will likely issues the permit later this year.

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