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Citizens: Statements based on 'research'


Biomass opposition group defends comments questioning environmental safety of plant


June 03, 2009
Taking issue with earlier comments from officials wanting to construct a woody biomass-to-electricity plant near Milltown that questioned the accuracy of statements made by the group of residents opposing the facility, Tom Doddridge of Milltown, at Thursday evening's county commissioners' meeting, said he and other opponents have made their statements based on research.

"These folks out here," Doddridge said, referring to the members of the Concerned Citizens of Crawford County in attendance at the Crawford County Judicial Complex in English, "have spent hundreds of hours researching things.

"I have seen most of which has been researched and sent to you or to the county council," he told the commissioners. "I know of nothing that is not etched in fact."

Doddridge said the group has gathered information from various sources, including universities, professional publications for the biomass industry and the Web sites for the U.S. District Court in California and Texas, U.S. Attorney General's Office and U.S. Department of Energy.

"We do not have millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire consultants, etc. So, we have to do this on our own," he said.

Doddridge, who said he would be willing to review anything in question, added: "I cannot manufacture facts off of professional periodicals or the Attorney General of the United States or any of those various sites."

Pointing to the air permit application plant developer Liberty Green Renewables LLC has submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Manage-ment, Doddridge said LGR has indicated the plant will emit 245.3 tons of nitrogen oxide per year, just below the 250-ton limit to be considered a minor source of pollution.

"I'm sure it's purely coincidence that that is only 1.8 percent below the cut-off for this to be considered a major pollutant," he said. "Also, sulphur dioxide at 178,000 pounds. This isn't supposition; this is their figures."

Doddridge also noted LGR's permit application lists 70 chemicals that will be emitted from the facility.

LGR partner Larry Ott "was quoted in the paper that this is considered a minor source, as emissions go. So, it's clean," Doddridge said. "If it was clean energy, they wouldn't have to apply for permits. And I'm sure this is pure coincidence that the level for nitrogen oxides and a couple other major components is just a hair, a hair under what it would take to go to the next stage, which would be a major pollutant, which would send these to a very different category permit wise."

Doddridge asked the county to request that IDEM conduct a public hearing regarding the permit application and that the hearing be held in Crawford County, instead of Indianapolis, to make it easier for county residents to attend.

LGR partner Terry Naulty, who attended the meeting with Ott, said company officials "fully support a public hearing" and added it wasn't his intent, at the county council meeting, to impugn the biomass plant opposition group.

"We recognize that they've done a lot of hard work and a lot of research," he said. "The facts are now on the table. The air permit was filed, and those are the facts. Our message to the council (last month) was to make a decision (about a possible property tax abatement request) based upon the facts. We apologize if that was 'mis-taken' by the Concerned Citizens group."

Responding to a comment from Cara Beth Jones, co-chair of the opposition group, earlier in the meeting that the plant, according to the permit application, has grown from 28 megawatts to 32 megawatts, Naulty said it hasn't. He explained four megawatts will be consumed internally to run the equipment, and 28 megawatts of electricity will be sold.

"So, that has not changed in any way," he said.

Jones also told the commissioners that the petition against the plant now has more than 1,300 signatures. Of those, more than 500 are from residents with a Milltown mailing address, Mark Woods, the group's other co-chair, said.

Woods said he appreciated the commissioners' decision in April to request a federal environmental im-pact study regarding the plant and at least one commissioner (Larry Bye) saying he needs to see the study before voting to endorse a tax abatement, but asked that they vote as a board to make no decision until reviewing such a study and request that the county council not to either.

To illustrate the importance of such a study, Woods read part of a letter from the Blue River Commission, which has oversight of the river's banks, requesting an environmental impact study, as well as a letter from the Crawford County Soil and Water Conservation Dis-trict expressing concerns about the site of the proposed plant.

Woods then made note of the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission 2008-2010 Comprehensive Eco-nomic Development Strate-gy Guide, saying the construction of a biomass plant near Milltown would be inconsistent with its objectives.

The document's mission statement, he said, is "to provide a better quality of life while sustaining our natural resources." A goal of the organization, to which Crawford County belongs, he added, is "to preserve and protect the environment" while supporting "projects that utilize the area's abundant water and timber resources while protecting them from pollution" as well as those that "promote the marketability of timber without harm to the environment."

"Of course, a tenth of the pollution of a coal plant into the Blue River and our forest is not 'without harm,' " Woods said.

"I suggest the commissioners comply with Region 15's goals, missions and objectives: preserve and protect our environment from the emissions of this incinerator on that site. This document was prepared at great cost and should be followed. It is the stated comprehensive de-velopment strategy for the county," he said, adding the plant would hamper what the plan says is Milltown's top priority project: attracting tourism businesses.

Bye said since LGR has not requested a tax abatement officially, the commissioners did not need to take any action.

*****

A copy of the air permit application is on file at the Crawford County Public Library in English.

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