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6:08 AM Fri, Oct. 19th

North Star Steel critics plan rally Saturday, circulate petitions

Critics of plans by North Star Steel to obtain a major-source air quality permit plan a rally Saturday and to continue a petition drive, environmental activist Jack Ehrhardt said.

Ehrhardt, of Citizens for Future Generations, said the group has scheduled a rally for 9 a.m.

to 4 p.m.

Saturday at the ramada at Centennial Park in Kingman.

He said the clean air rally will feature "quite a line-up" of speakers, including health educators and environmental activists.

Rally participants also may sign a petition that urges the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency to deny the major-source permit to North Star Steel.

Ehrhardt said a few hundred people have signed the petitions, adding several have been mailed over the past two weeks to ADEQ.

He also plans to present petitions to the regional director of the EPA in San Francisco on Nov.

28, a day in which Ehrhardt is scheduled to receive an environmental achievement award.

"We firmly believe this permit application is 'legally defective,' and violates legal requirements," the petition states.

"The record clearly shows North Star Steel purposely told their employees to not reveal any of the testing results (on emissions)."

ADEQ spokesman Kurt Maurer said his agency has received some letters on the proposed permit for North Star Steel, but said he is unaware of any petitions.

ADEQ conducted a meeting and public hearing on the permit application, and agreed – at Ehrhardt's request – to extend the deadline for public comment for another month, to Dec.

1.

ADEQ officials will reserve comment until after the deadline concludes, Maurer said.

He also could not give a date on when the ADEQ is expected to decide whether to grant the major-source permit to North Star Steel.

North Star plant manager Jim Crompton and media spokesman Greg Lauser could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The permit, if granted, would enable the mini-mill to emit 3,185 tons of carbon monoxide, 584 tons of nitrogen oxides, 223 tons of inhalable particulate matter, 186 tons of volatile organic compounds, 105 tons of sulfur dioxide and 1.3 tons of lead per year.

Under its minor-source permit, North Star may emit 100 tons of pollutant per year, said Barbara Strungl, environmental engineering associate with the air quality permit section of ADEQ.

North Star Steel, which uses recycled steel to manufacture wire rods and reinforcement bars for the construction industry, opened the mini-mill in 1996 at a 425-acre site off Shinarump Drive and Interstate 40.

Ehrhardt and other opponents used the meeting on Oct.

17 and public hearing Nov.

1 to speak against awarding the major-source permit to North Star Steel.

They cited emission violations of the minor-source permit that led the Attorney General's Office in conjunction with ADEQ to fine the steel-recycling company $7.75 million in a civil settlement announced June 22.

North Star Steel employees, who remained silent Oct.

17, urged ADEQ officials to grant the permit when they spoke up at the hearing.

They said their company is committed to solving the environmental problem, praised the teamwork and work environment, and expressed fears that they would lose their jobs.

Four days after the hearing, Attorney General Janet Napolitano announced her office and North Star Steel entered a plea agreement in which the company, through its president and chief executive officer, Jim Thompson, pleaded guilty to two felony counts.

North Star Steel agreed to pay a $3 million fine, pay an additional $425,000 to establish environmental enforcement training, reimburse the state $250,000 for fees and costs of the investigation and an additional $125,000 to cover the costs of paving roads in Kingman.