IDEM flagged for public participation rule

From Local Sources

DALE — Two organizations, Southwest Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life and Valley Watch, scored what they call “two major victories” last week in their challenge of Riverview Energy’s air permit issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management on June 11. The groups petitioned to challenge the permit on July 9.

Riverview Energy announced in early 2018 plans to build a $2.5 billion coal-to-diesel plant in Dale that would be the first direct coal-hydrogenation project in the U.S.

Most significantly, according to a press release from SWICQL and Valley Watch, the Office of Environmental Adjudication found that IDEM failed in their legal responsibility to respond to public records requests in a timely fashion, thus limiting the petitioners’ ability to fully comment on the draft permit.

The order, dated Jan. 28, stated: “IDEM violated 2-7-17(c)(l)(C)(iv). There is no question of fact that the records obtained by Petitioners in June 2019 contained relevant and significant information regarding the emissions implications that was not available either in the VFC (Virtual File Cabinet) or in the TSD (Technical Support Document). Petitioners assert that they would have made comments to IDEM regarding this information. IDEM’s significant delay in responding to the request for public records further supports a conclusion that IDEM did not comply with 2-7-17(c)(l)(C)(iv). Summary judgment is appropriate in Petitioners’ favor.”

Records at issue were requested nearly a year before IDEM finally shared them with the petitioners, well after the legal timeframe required by Indiana law and after the public hearing and comment period had closed. OEA’s order stated, “IDEM must comply with the rule. For the rule to have any meaning, the Petitioners must have accurate, complete and up-to-date information...”

In a separate order, OEA granted legal standing to both SWICQL and Valley Watch, which is a recognition that members of both groups are “aggrieved or adversely affected” by the Riverview Energy permit and entitled to pursue their permit challenge.

OEA will conduct a formal hearing or trial in late June and early July when the case to remand the entire permit back to IDEM will be decided.

Joint petitioners are represented by the nonprofit, environmental law firm, Earthjustice, and Indianapolis attorney, Kathryn A. Watson of the firm Cantrell & Mehringer LLP.

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