Public supports coke plant

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 13, 2003

GREEN TOWNSHIP - In less than a half hour, hundreds packed in the Green High School gymnasium boisterously displayed their support for a possible new coke plant in Haverhill.

Wednesday night, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency conducted a public hearing to accept comments for a draft permit issued to Haverhill North Coke Company for a proposed facility at the corner of Old U.S. 52 and Ironton Avenue in Haverhill. The draft permit, if issued in final form, would regulate air emissions from four 100-oven non-recovery coke batteries; two quenching towers; coal, coke, coke breeze and material handling operations; and fugitive dust associated with coal and coke storage piles and paved reads and parking areas.

Sun Coke, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based subsidiary of Sunoco, has long considered putting a $135 to $175 million coke plant to the west of the Sunoco Chemical facility between old and new U.S. 52. The company is also considering a location in Indiana.

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Even though the plant would be built in Scioto County, several Lawrence County officials came to voice their support for a facility they believed would employ Lawrence Countians and be another part of economic growth in the county line area.

Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, was the first person to voice his support for the facility. He pointed out that areas between Hanging Rock and Wheelersburg are essentially jointly owned by Lawrence and Scioto Counties.

"Workers at Duke Energy sleep in Scioto County, and several workers at Sun Coke will sleep in Lawrence County," he said. "It's like the old adage: When the tide comes in, all boats rise."

Even when areas such as Huntington, W.Va., and Ashland, Ky., experience economic growth, Dingus said, Lawrence County benefits because of more job opportunities.

Steve Carter, Scioto County economic development director, agreed.

"Even though we are segmented by county lines, economic development does not happen in a vacuum," Carter said. "Regional development is very important, and it takes people working together to make things happen. We are very grateful for Lawrence County's support."

Besides Dingus, Rob Slagel, owner of Ironton's Storage on the Spot was one of the many Lawrence Countians coming to voice their support for the plant. Hamilton Township Trustee Bob Blankenship said Scioto County residents were equally supportive of Duke Energy before it arrived in Lawrence County. With the Sun Coke plant situated amongst facilities such as Duke and Dow Chemical, the area of Old U.S. 52 in both counties could become an industrial hub, he said. Calpine, another proposed plant for Hamilton Township, should be under construction by 2005, Blankenship said.

Suzie Keller, a Franklin Furnace resident, teacher in the Portsmouth City school district and former Green Local Board of Education member, was one of 40 residents, public officials and community leaders who visited the Jewell Coal and Coke plant in Virginia to see who much the industry has changed over the years. Keller commented that not only was the facility clean, but the employees would be a good neighbor to local school districts, with employees working with the students.

Kevin Johnson, public information officer for the Ohio EPA, said public comments will be reviewed before Director Chris Jones makes a decision regarding the permit. Written comments may be sent through Friday to Portsmouth Local Air Agency, Attn: Cindy Charles, 605 Washington Street, Portsmouth, Ohio 45662.

"It's common for a plant to have supporters, but not hundreds," he said.