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County to seek biomass impact study

April 29, 2009
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 Thursday night to request a federal environmental impact study be conducted before permits are issued for the proposed biomass plant near Milltown.

District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore made the motion to request the study, and Larry Bye, president of the board, seconded it, following a lengthy discussion with members of a group of residents opposing the 28-megawatt woody biomass-to-electricity plant that Liberty Green Renewables LLC is wanting to have operating by the end of 2011.

Much of the information presented by the group, which calls itself the Concerned Citizens of Crawford County, was the same as it provided to the county council the previous week. However, the request for the environmental impact study was new.

Also new was the group's urging of the commissioners to pass an ordinance to keep the plant from being built. Mark Woods, co-chair of the group, told the commissioners that repeated claims that the county can do nothing beyond deny a tax abatement are incorrect.

"You need to know that's not the case," he said.

The county, Woods explained, can follow the lead of hundreds of communities throughout the country that have passed ordinances to keep similar facilities from building.

A letter signed by Woods and fellow co-chair Cara Beth Jones and given to the commissioners stated: "An ordinance to protect Crawford County's karst topography — specifically the largest such formation in the county, the Blue River Group as the DNR has titled it — is something we need now."

Woods told the commissioners that outside organizations can offer help in writing such an ordinance at no expense to the county.

Tom Doddridge urged the commissioners, as well as the county council, to "take control of the process" instead of allowing LGR to dictate things. That currently isn't happening, he said, noting that he believes LGR has already started permitting and funding efforts.

"So, they're proceeding," he said. "What concerns me is, we're not."

Bye said he believes LGR will ask for a tax abatement after it secures the required permits for the plant. While a tax abatement request doesn't need to come before the commissioners, he said, the county council, however, wants any request to have the blessing of the commissioners.

"I want to go on the record tonight to say, before I would support or endorse any kind of tax abatement, I would have to see a full-blown environmental im-pact (study)," Bye said.

Schultz, who voted in favor of requesting such a study, asked members of the group if they would change their mind about the plant if the study showed no environmental danger to the area.

Woods and others admitted they don't know, but they pledged to review the study in detail.

However, Glenn Crecelius said he has no faith in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Indiana Department of Environmental Manage-ment Agency and he would be against the plant no matter what.

Gilmore told the group that he wants to see economic development, but he understands why people are worried about the facility. He said he hasn't taken a stance because he has wanted to first learn as much about the plant as he can.

Schultz also said he has been trying to process all of the information that is available, so he can make a well-informed decision. He added that he has heard from several people who are in favor the facility.

Rodney Jenkins, who lives near the proposed site, said the commissioners must look out for the greater good and likened the situation to a restaurant that is smoke-free despite some of its customers wanting to smoke indoors.

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