NILES — All systems appear to be go as Indeck Energy Services has received an air emissions permit from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The state’s action comes six weeks after a public hearing in Niles drew only a handful of residents.

Indeck broke ground in early September on the $1 billion natural gas power plant it is building in the Niles Industrial Park. Local officials hailed the move as big boost to the area in terms of both jobs created and energy produced.

The project is expected to employ 500 people during the construction phase and then 21 people once it is in operation in March 2022. The new 1,085 megawatt combined cycle plant is expected to generate enough energy to power 700,000 homes and businesses.

As EGLE officials noted at the Oct. 17 meeting, Indeck received an air emissions permit in early 2017 but a new permit was needed because the manufacturer of the turbines being installed changed some specifications. The company could have operated under the 2017 permit even if this one had been denied.

As approved Tuesday by EGLE, the new permit allows Indeck to emit certain compounds such as nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter into the air within acceptable limits. EGLE staff will conduct unannounced inspections every two years and the permit will be up for renewal in five years.

In addition to approving the Indeck permit, the EGLE staff responded to comments made in person and in writing by residents.

One commenter said that the power plant will have an adverse effect on the local environment and will make existing problems worse. EGLE staff said their computer modeling showed that emissions from the Indeck plant will have impacts below state and national pollution standards.

People also expressed concerns about the emissions harming those with respiratory issues, other industries not being able to come into the area because of the Indeck plant’s emissions, temperature inversions trapping emissions in the atmosphere, and that the plan would push the area into nonattainment for different pollutants.

Regarding the respiratory issue, EGLE staff said that a 2012 study by the National Institutes of Health claiming higher incidences of respiratory illness among people living around power plants doesn’t accurately state the risks from natural gas fired power plants. The study did not differentiate between coal fired plants and ones fired by other fuels.

EGLE staff said they don’t see the Indeck plant having an adverse effect on other economic development by limiting their ability to meet air emission requirements.