CoorsTek air quality permit renewal spawns community questions

Posted 5/22/18

A proposed renewal of CoorsTek’s air quality permits would require a significant reduction in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide pollutants. The company is “committed to …

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CoorsTek air quality permit renewal spawns community questions

Posted

A proposed renewal of CoorsTek’s air quality permits would require a significant reduction in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide pollutants.

The company is “committed to regulatory and permit compliance, while also making adjustments as requirements and technologies evolve,” CoorsTek representatives said during a May 15 public meeting hosted by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission at Golden’s city hall.

CoorsTek is a privately-owned ceramics manufacturing company. Its flagship facility is located at 600 Ninth St. in Golden.

MORE: What is CoorsTek?

Matt Burgett, the Title V unit supervisor in the Air Pollution Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, presented some background information on air permits at the May 15 hearing. An air permit is a document that authorizes legal emissions of air pollutants under certain terms and conditions, he said.

There are two types of air permits — a construction permit and an operating permit, also known as Title V. Operating permits must be renewed every five years. Facilities operate under existing operating permits until renewal.

“This permit does not represent an extension of activities at Ninth Street,” said Holt Simmons, the vice president of manufacturing at CoorsTek.

The operating permit program was established in the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act Amendments and Colorado’s Title V program began in 2000.

The Air Pollution Control Division issued CoorsTek its original operating permit on Aug. 1, 1999, and a renewal on Oct. 1, 2004. On Sept. 16, 2008, CoorsTek’s second renewal application was submitted.

One reason for the gap between then and now, said one of Simmons’ staff during the May 15 presentation, was because there were issues with the 2004 permit, such as some of the permit’s test results being 20 years old. Since then CoorsTek has conducted updated tests of its kilns and emissions for the current renewal process.

In addition, there have been application modifications, mainly concerning incorporating existing construction permits that were previously issued into the operating permit. These applications were submitted on Aug. 2, 2016; July 25, 2017, which was amended on Aug. 4, 2017; and Oct. 24, 2017.

Because CoorsTek’s renewal includes significant modifications, the process requires a public comment period and a 45-day review period by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejects a permit application, a business has 90 days to revise the application for it to become compliant with the regulations set forth in the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Being processed parallel to CoorsTek’s operating permit are some revisions to a construction permit. CoorsTek was issued four construction permits between 2013 and 2016 for a periodic kiln, binder burnout oven, electric vacuum furnaces and a boiler. The Air Pollution Control Division specifically wanted CoorsTek to reduce VOC emissions to the federally enforced limit. These revisions are planned to be incorporated into the construction permit by an Air Quality Control Commission deadline of July 1, 2018.

The Air Pollution Control Division requested a 30-day extension to the Title V public comment period to better coincide with the construction permit public comment period. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission granted this request, so the public now has through June 12 to provide additional comments on both permits.

The May 15 public hearing took place per the request of the environmental protection group WildEarth Guardians.

“We are concerned that there is not more information about what is being burned in these kilns,” said Jeremy Nichols, a Golden resident and the director of WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program. “This is a big deal.”

This permitting process “may be one of the first times that CoorsTek’s air pollution has really been put under a microscope and scrutinized so intensively,” Nichols said, adding it also provides the community with an outlet to voice any concerns and demand accountability from CoorsTek.

“It’s a good thing and it’s exactly what our clean air laws and regulations are meant to do,” Nichols said, “essentially ensure that very complicated regulatory processes are kept in check by fundamental beliefs in clean air, public health and corporate responsibility.”

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