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Rockport plant opponents appeal quick permit extension

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Editor's note: This story has been updated.

Environmental groups opposed to a controversial coal gasification plant proposed for southwest Indiana have asked for state administrative review of a permit that was extended without a hearing on the day it was set to expire.

The Sierra Club and Valley Watch, Inc. filed a petition for administrative review of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s permit renewal because they say it was done without public notice. The groups contend notice and perhaps hearings are required under the state’s administrative code. The petition is filed with the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication.

IDEM more than 18 months ago issued a “Prevention of Significant Deterioration New Source Construction/Part 70 Operating Permit” for the facility proposed to be built in Rockport by Indiana Gasification, LLC, a subsidiary of hedge fund Leucadia National Corp. The Rockport plant project manager is Mark Lubbers, a one-time aide to former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who championed the project.

The permit issued in June 2012 was set to expire Dec. 28, 2013, according to IDEM. The petitioners say 326 IAC 2-2-8(a)(l) stipulates such permits “shall become invalid” if construction hasn’t started within 18 months. IDEM extended the permit on Dec. 26, the same day Indiana Gasification filed a permit amendment application, according to the petition. It says IDEM violated its rules in doing so.

“IDEM’s failures to follow public notice procedures or provide a justification for the extension in the Permit Amendment not only renders the Permit Amendment invalid and the PSD Permit expired, but they deprived the Petitioners their right to know and to comment upon the basis for IDEM’s decision,” the petition concludes.

IDEM spokesman Dan Goldblatt said that under the federal Clean Air Act, the agency was not required to conduct hearings on an extension that did not constitute a modification of the existing permit.

Goldblatt said in a statement Wednesday the extension request was processed pursuant to Indiana’s federally approved State Implementation Plan rule, 326 IAC 2-2-8(a), which does not require a 30-day notice and comment period. He said notice was provided to interested parties including Sierra Club and Valley Watch.

 

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