Public encouraged to express views on air quality

LIBERTY — With such a major project involving the Greensboro-Randolph megasite, there are bound to be new topics that might create attention in the region.

One of them is air quality.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality is seeking public comment on a draft air quality permit modification for the Toyota Battery Manufacturing facility.

“We want to solicit public comment before we make any decision,” said Shawn Taylor, a public information officer with the department. “We’re really hoping to hear from the people, both pro and con.”

A change of classification is requested. Public comments will be accepted until Nov. 3.

This requested change in classification might not be common to many residents, so Taylor said this serves as an information window for the public as well.

The facility is permitted by DAQ as a minor source to operate four hybrid-vehicle battery production lines. In July 2022, Toyota applied to DAQ to modify its air permit to add seven electric-vehicle battery production lines and supporting equipment. This proposed modification would reclassify the facility as a major source under Title V of the Clean Air Act.

Toyota proposes to use wet and dry scrubbers to control and collect dust and organic compounds used in the manufacturing process, which is needed to keep the facility clean enough for battery production. The facility would also be subject to federal emissions standards, recordkeeping requirements, and regular inspections.

The facility’s emissions must comply with state and federal health-based standards. Toyota is expected to remain a minor source of hazardous air pollutants. A review of the facility’s toxic air pollutants showed none would exceed the state’s Toxic Permitting Emission Rates.

The division will consider public comments before making a final decision on the proposed permit. Taylor said this is a general procedure regarding such a project, though this is in the latter stages of this process.

Engineers have drafted what they believe to be the most practical permit, Taylor said. The Toyota Battery Manufacturing plant is expected to be in operation in 2025.

Copies of the draft permit, draft permit review, permit application, and draft environmental justice report are available through the DAQ.

Comments or requests for a public hearing will be accepted through 5 p.m. Nov. 3. Comments can be emailed to [email protected] with “Toyota 22B” in the subject line. Voice mail comments can be left by calling (919) 707-8714. Comments can also be mailed to: NCDEQ Division of Air Quality, 1641 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1641.

Because of the Spanish-speaking population in the region, Taylor said that an effort has been made to produce as much information in bilingual formats.

By Bob Sutton