Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Rockport Permit Extension Appealed ; Groups Cite Quick Approval

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Rockport Permit Extension Appealed ; Groups Cite Quick Approval

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS - A $2.8-billion coal-gasification plant proposed to be built at Rockport won a reprieve last month from the Indiana Supreme Court but now is facing a new challenge. Environmental groups that contend the Southern Indiana project's construction permit is invalid and expired last month filed an appeal Monday with the state's Office of Environmental Adjudication. The Sierra Club and Evansville-based Valley Watch

Inc., argue the permit is void because the public wasn't given a chance to weigh in on developer Indiana Gasification LCC's request for a six-month permit extension.

The groups argue that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management was required under state law to provide a 30-day public comment period on the request but approved it Dec. 26 - the same day the developers applied for the extension. Their appeal asks an administrative law judge to strike down IDEM's decision and declare that the permit has expired.

The swift permit extension approval is "an insult to all Hoosiers," said Jodi Perras, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in Indiana.

"IDEM's hasty sameday approval demonstrates that our environmental agency merely rubber-stamps requests they receive from industry," she said in a statement.

IDEM spokesman Dan Goldblatt said the agency isn't required to provide a 30-day public comment period for requests for permit extensions.

"An extension is not a change to the permit. IDEM has discretion under the Clean Air Act to grant extensions," Goldblatt said in a statement.

Perras said the Sierra Club's reading of Indiana law is that it allows a number of exceptions to the 30-day comment period requirement but "this type of permit extension is not one of them."

The groups' appeal also contends IDEM did not provide a required justi-fication for extending the permit that will expire June 27 if construction work on the plant does not begin by that date.

Goldblatt said Indiana law requires permit holders, not IDEM, to provide a justification for a permit extension request - and that Indiana Gasification included that in its request. …

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