Sierra Club contests U.S. Sugar’s operating permit

Earthjustice filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Nov. 19 asking the federal agency to object to an operating permit obtained by U.S. Sugar Corporation’s Clewiston facility.

The petition was filed on behalf of the Sierra Club and contends the Title V air operation permit renewal application submitted by U.S. Sugar in January 2015 was incomplete because it did not include pre-harvest cane burning as a source of hazardous air pollutants (HAP).

The Sierra Club argues U.S. Sugar’s Title V permit violates the Clean Air Act, which aims to control air pollution on a national level.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued the Title V permit to U.S. Sugar in September after a draft renewal was issued for public comment in June.

Earthjustice submitted comments on behalf of the Sierra Club to the DEP stating U.S. Sugar was required to list its cane burning operations as HAP emissions. The DEP, however, issued the Title V permit without requiring U.S. Sugar to list cane burning as HAP emissions.

The Sierra Club, through Earthjustice, is now petitioning the EPA to object to the Title V permit.

In the petition, Earthjustice states, “To impose the burdens of Title V on U.S. Sugar’s sugar mill, refinery, and cogeneration plant while completely exempting its sugarcane burning operations from any scrutiny whatsoever makes no sense, does not serve the purposes of Title V, and runs contrary to the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations. Nonetheless, this is what DEP has done; EPA has a duty to see that DEP fixes its mistake.”

U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said in a statement, “This petition is not unexpected given that similar arguments were previously made and dismissed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.”

Sanchez went on to say, “These petitions are motivated by a desire to inflict economic harm on our business, our farmers’ way of life, and our communities. As we discussed at the start of the harvest season in September, controlled sugarcane burns are closely regulated and monitored by the state. In fact, independent studies show our region enjoys some of the best air quality in the state.”

Sanchez says U.S. Sugar plans to file a response with the EPA.

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