Another day, another violation letter from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). It seems like the same old dance but the music is definitely speeding up. MDEQ is actually pursuing a monetary penalty with its April 18, 2019 letter to Fortistar Methane Group. This polluter has not paid any fines or penalties for being out of compliance since at least 2015, potentially much longer.
MDEQ recently sent a letter to Fortistar demanding payment of a $5,000 stipulated penalty. The penalty is for missing a deadline to perform an emission test on the landfill gas turbines by June 1, 2018. Fortistar performed the testing on May 31 and June 1, 2018, but the test was determined to not be representative of normal landfill operations when 25 wells were found to be suspiciously closed just prior to the testing (sounds criminal!). The $5,000 penalty is a stipulated penalty for missing the deadline which was agreed to in a 2015 consent order between Fortistar and the MDEQ.
More importantly, the letter also announces the commencement of escalated enforcement action against Fortistar for violations detailed in previously issued violation letters. It reads, in part: “Additionally, this letter is to advise you of the commencement of escalated enforcement action against the Company. This letter follows the August 30, 2018, February 1, 2019, March 14, 2019 and April 11, 2019, Violation Notices issued by the DEQ, AQD (Air Quality Division) which detailed violations of the Standards of Performance for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills…”
Escalated enforcement actions are a last chance for Fortistar to agree to a consent order with enforceable corrective actions and a monetary penalty. The next step would be turning violations over to the Michigan attorney general. Note: MDEQ is also negotiating escalated enforcement actions with Advanced Disposal, the landfill’s current permit holder.
The letter also says: “The AQD acknowledges that the Company is in settlement negotiations related to the Finding of Violations issued by the U.S. EPA on September 29, 2016 and June 4, 2018, regarding the sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission limit exceedances at the facility. Given the additional violations referenced above and the ongoing SO2 emission limit exceedances, the AQD is proceeding with this separate enforcement action.”
The MDEQ can be a slow-moving bureaucracy, and even slower when dealing with wayward companies. The outrage the communities surrounding Arbor Hills Landfill are showing is helping the MDEQ to push harder and more aggressively. Our filing a Notice Of Intent to sue Advanced Disposal Services and Fortistar Methane Group is putting pressure on the companies. Citizens can collect fines and damages for violations of the Clean Air Act. Our lawsuit may encourage MDEQ to do more of the same.
We need to keep up the pressure. Join the Conservancy Initiative. Talk to your neighbors. There will be much more information in the near future about fund raising that will be required to support the lawsuit and other efforts.