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Ministry says Dofasco emission improvements key to getting exemption

The province says it expects to see ongoing improvements in ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s air quality emissions if it plans to grant the steelmaker another exemption to Ontario’s environmental standards.
ArcelorMittal Dofasco is investing tens of millions to upgrade its pollution control technology to prevent problem emissions. (Environment Hamilton)

The province says it expects to see ongoing improvements in ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s air quality emissions as a condition of renewing the steelmaker's exemption to Ontario’s environmental standards.

Nearly 10 years ago, the Ministry of Environment passed new stringent air quality standards for Ontario industries. ArcelorMittal Dofasco couldn’t meet them with the technology available, so the two sides hammered out an alternative set of emissions standards, known as site-specific standards. The ability to do so was contained in the new standards, and all Ontario steelmakers have applied for the exemptions.

In October, ArcelorMittal Dofasco will apply to the province to renew its site-specific standards for another five years.

The ministry knows its benchmarks might outpace available technology, said Kate Jordan, ministry spokesperson. Every iron and steel mill in Ontario has applied for the site specific exemptions while they make the improvements.

“We do recognize that they might not be achievable by a facility because of technical or economic limitations at a specific facility,” she said. “Generally speaking it’s just because you just don’t have the technology to do it.”

But it wants to see gradual improvements too, Jordan said. Companies must show an investment in using the “best-available control technology.”

“It’s not like you’re just going to stick at what you are,” Jordan said.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco held a public open house earlier this month on its planned improvements, a requirement to renew its site-specific standards.

It plans to spend $135 million on various upgrades it says will lower toxic emissions. Among them is a plan to shut down coke oven #1 and truck coke — a key ingredient in making steel — from a Pennsylvania plant. Coke ovens #2 and #3 will be upgraded at a cost of $87 million.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s current site-specific standards are for total sulfur and suspended particles. It’s asking for new site-specific standards for benzene and benzo(a)pyrene.

The company is making $700 million in facility upgrades from 2011 to 2016. It’s “committed to continuous improvement in every aspect of its operations,” it said in an email.

Once the coke oven work is done, said Jim Stirling, general manager, environment, ​Hamiltonians will see a marked difference in the level of emissions.

“There’s going to be a significant reduction."

Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton, says the plan isn’t enough. She wanted to see the standards in place by 2010.

“I worry people are going to walk away tonight and think ‘Oh great, they’ve made progress and everything’s fine,’” she said at the meeting last week. “But it’s a very different story.”

U.S. Steel has also applied to renew its site-specific standards.

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