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Merck & Co., Inc.

Letter from W. Michael McCabe to Betty Sellers

January 16, 1997

Mrs. Betty S. Sellers
Route 4, Box 245
Elkton, Virginia 22827

Dear Mrs. Sellers:

Thank you for your letters of December 18, 20, and 27, 1996 regarding the Merck XL project. We appreciate your support for the project, which offers significant environmental benefits for the community and surrounding area. Your dedication and contributions to this project have been outstanding, and I truly thank you for your participation.

We appreciate you expressing your remaining concerns about the stakeholder process for the future evaluation of changes to Merck's Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit. We understand that you believe the three community representatives as a group should be required to give consent to permit changes, independent of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors. We also realize that you support the position expressed by Mr. David Carr of the Southern Environmental Law Center that a public interest group should be required to give consent to permit changes.

The participation of parties that have a stake in the environmental impacts of a project is a key element of Project XL. As you know, the draft PSD permit currently provides a five-year periodic review process whereby changes to the permit can be recommended to the permitting authority upon full consent of the project signatories (i.e., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Merck, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors). The draft permit also provides that additional stakeholders, including three community representatives and a regional public interest group, will participate in the five-year reviews but their consent is not required for permit changes. As the draft permit is currently structured, these participants will have an important role, along with the signatories, in the evaluation and discussion of whether permit changes are warranted. In your December 18, 1996 letter, you recommended that, at a minimum, Merck should be required to consult with the three community representatives. In fact, the draft permit in effect establishes a process in which all stakeholders will consult with each other during the review process, much as the stakeholders did during the development of the draft permit.

If should be noted that the signatories' full consent on a permit change serves to recommend that the permitting authority propose a permit modification according to the public participation procedures that would be established in EPA's site-specific rulemaking. Thus, the public will have a formal opportunity to comment on proposed permit changes. The permitting authority must consider any public comments prior to issuing a revised permit.

You have also expressed concern for ensuring adequate technical assistance specific to community needs during the future evaluation of the permit. Prior to the initiation of the five-year permit reviews, EPA would be glad to work with the community representatives to assist in providing the technical and informational resources necessary for the community to make informed decisions.

We have reviewed your comments on the draft permit and plan to include them in the docket for EPA's proposed site-specific rulemaking for the Merck XL project. We will thoroughly evaluate these and any other public comments prior to making decisions about the provisions of the final-rulemaking.

Again, thank you for the substantial commitment you have made on behalf of your community to make the Merck XL project a success. Please call Ms. Robin Moran of my staff at (215) 566-2064 if you would like to discuss this matter further.


W. Michael McCabe
Regional Administrator

cc: Merck XL Stakeholders

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