(Chicago, IL) — December 20, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today announced that SunCoke Energy, which is under siege in Ohio for federal pollution violations and a new plant construction opposed by local residents, will receive $4.8 million from Illinois taxpayers to help the Fortune 500 company to relocate its corporate headquarters from Knoxville, Tennessee to Arboretum Lakes in Lisle.
“By choosing Illinois as its home, SunCoke is making a wise decision that will put it in an extremely competitive position for future growth,” said Quinn. “Illinois has again shown that we have the right resources to attract and keep companies in the state, and that we know how to help businesses thrive.”
Quinn estimates that the project will create 105 new jobs.
SunCoke, which operates a 110-employee plant in downstate Granite City about eight miles northeast of St. Louis, is currently battling in Ohio both the federal government over pollution violations and local residents over the construction of a new coke facility.
On February 17, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hit company for multiple violations at its Haverhill, Ohio furnace.
“Since Jan. 1, 2009, SunCoke has failed to comply with its permit in at least 116 instances, emitting 594 percent tons more of particulate matter and 134 percent tons more sulfur dioxide through its bypass stacks than allowed, said Gina Harrison, an environmental scientist with the U.S. EPA’s Region 5 office,” wrote Journal News reporter Jessica Heffner on February 28, 2010.
And on July 1, 2010, the E.P.A.’s Region 5 (Chicago) Air and Radiation Division Director Cheryl Newton hit the company again over its Haverhill plants SO2 gas emissions, writing to SunCoke in a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act that the Haverhill North Coke’s excess bypass venting from units P901 and P902 since 2005 collectively constitutes 165 rolling months of failure to comply with operation standards required by its … permit.”
According to Newton, “Long term exposure to high levels of SO2 gas and particles can cause respiratory illness, aggravate existing heart disease, and lead to premature death.”
Meanwhile, the town Ohio city of Monroe has been battling SunCoke to prevent the construction of a similar facility near the town, forcing the company earlier this earlier this month to revise the plant’s potential power production capacity to less than 50 megawatts of energy in order to skirt more stringent regulation.
“This is yet another example of SunCoke’s determination to evade the legal requirements that are designed to protect the public from the impacts of its coke plant,” said attorney Chris Walker who representing the city of Monroe.
Quinn has been routinely dangling millions of state taxpayer dollars to bring new companies to job-starved Illinois. He deserves credit for his laser-like focus on economic development. However, shoveling $4.8 million into SunCoke’s coffers will do little for the governor’s “green” credentials in Illinois. And Quinn should keep an eye on Granite City.