Recently, the Toledo Blade had a story on the recent court ruling regarding the FDS Coke permit. The FDS permit has been the subject of numerous appeals which have dragged on years. The 10th Appellate Court recently issued a ruling sending the FDS permit back to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission for determination of whether construction had begun in order to maintain the validity of the permit.
The FDS permit had a condition that a continuing program of construction must be commenced to maintain the validity of the permit. The Court said more information was need to determine whether the permit was still valid.
The ruling is largely irrelevant for future air permits due to a legislative change that allows permits to be valid so long as an appeal is pending. R.C. 3704.03(F)(2)(b)(iv) was revised to expressly suspend the expiration clock for air permits during a third party appeal. It states:
(iv) The installation permit is the subject of an appeal by a party other than the owner or operator of the air contaminant source that is the subject of the installation permit, in which case the date of termination of the permit is not later than eighteen months after the effective date of the permit plus the number of days between the date in which the permit was appealed and the date on which all appeals concerning the permit have been resolved.
However, its another legislative change to the appeal process that I want to comment on. The Blade included the following in the story regarding the FDS Coke decision:
In 2005, former Ohio EPA Director Joe Koncelik took the unprecedented action of modifying the permit while it was still under appeal, softening it for FDS. That action was ruled invalid, prompting Gov. Ted Strickland to seek a permanent change in state law that would allow such modifications to occur. The Ohio General Assembly approved it, giving greater power to state EPA directors.
The permanent change referenced was Am. Sub. H.B. 119 (September 2007) which modified the language in Revised Code 3745.04 to state:
The environmental review appeals commission has exclusive
original jurisdiction over any matter that may, under this
section, be brought before it. However, the director has and
retains jurisdiction to modify, amend, revise, renew, or revoke
any permit, rule, order, or other action that has been appealed
to the commission.
The story implies that the bill was some sort of power grab for Director’s of Ohio EPA. In fact, it is necessary authority given the reality of our permit appeal process.
It is not unusual for permits to be under appeal for years. During that time period circumstances can change that warrant modifications, revisions or revocation of a previously issued permit. It could be changing regulations or environmental conditions that push the need for the change.
If the law was left as it stood after the ruling saying Director’s could not modify permits under appeal, it would effectively freeze these action in time while ever changing environmental conditions and regulations march forward. The legislative change was a logical reaction to this reality.