MGLE hosts public hearing on Indeck air emissions request

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

NILES — The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s virtual public hearing and information session Wednesday on Indeck Energy Services’ request to amend their air emissions permit for their Niles natural gas power plant saw only one person commenting and a total of just five members of the public attending. 

The hearing was a far cry from past public hearings over the years since Indeck first proposed building a power plant in Niles more than 20 years ago. Past hearings often featured large crowds of people attending to voice their opposition to the power plant plans. Most of those hearings occurred before Indeck actually started construction in 2019. 

A major reason for the more subdued nature of this hearing was likely the fact that Indeck is asking to reduce the amount of emissions coming from the power plant. Indeck submitted an air quality permit application that reflects the equipment actually installed which produces lower amounts of the regulated emissions. 

EGLE permit engineer Nicholas Carlson said Wednesday that Indeck is using equipment that produces less noise and less air pollutants than originally propsed. Specifically, he reported the boilers produce less particulate matter and green house gases and the fuel heaters produce much less nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and green house gases. 

‘The takeaway is that the equipment is half the size of what was originally requested which also passed our evaluations,” EGLE meeting moderator Jenifer Dixon said. “We’re always happy to see emission reductions and this is a significant reduction in emissions. It is a positive change, we don’t usually have permits come in with such a reduction.” 

Rachel Benaway of EGLE also spoke. She is the inspector for the facility and outlined how the facility is monitored and the process used if there is a violation. She is the EGLE inspector for Cass County.  

“A major source of criteria pollutants like this plant is inspected regularly,” she said. “They have no idea when I will show up so they have to stay on their toes. I evaluate odors and see if anything has changed or if there are signs that the equipment is not working properly. I take readings from their equipment and view maintenance records and inspection sheets.” 

She said if anything wrong is found, a violation notice is sent out within 14 days of discovery and then she does follow up. She said there is an ongoing process to make sure a facility is in compliance with at least five different reviews in a year. If there is a second notice, the matter then goes into an enforcement situation. 

EGLE officials in attendance at the virtual meeting noted that they only deal with air emissions. They do not deal with other issues related to zoning, traffic, noise, the popularity of the project and whether it is needed. 

The one person who commented asked a question about noise which has been a major issue for Indeck, the city of Niles and nearby residents since the plant opened more than a year ago. Dixon said the noise issue is one of the things totally handled by the municipality. 

The public hearing itself did not draw any comments from the public in attendance. Dixon said comments will continue to be accepted through midnight on Sept. 11 via phone, mail or email with a final EGLE decision made after that. A recording of Wednesday’s presentation will be on the EGLE website later this week.