June 30, 2013

Debate over power plant continues

More than 150 turn out for panel

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Those on both sides of Logansport’s pursuit of developing an electricity plant powered by refuse-derived fuel showed they are continuing to work toward their goals at a panel discussion last week hosted by those skeptical of the project.

Addressing more than 150 attendees at the McHale Performing Arts Center Wednesday night were Morton Marcus, retired director of the Indiana Business Research Center; Bradley Angel, executive director of San Francisco-based Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice; and Mike Ewall, founder and director of Philadelphia-based Energy Justice Network. The event was sponsored by a local group called the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy, or CARE.

The panelists addressed a proposal by Pyrolyzer LLC, which the city is currently negotiating with to develop an electricity plant powered by refuse-derived fuel.

The panelists contested the company’s and the city-hired consultants’ claims that the plant’s process of pyrolysis doesn’t fall under incineration or combustion. In his presentation, Ewall cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of municipal waste combustor, which includes pyrolysis, in its list of examples.

The panelists also pointed to the failures of similar projects in the past and suggested citizens to urge elected officials to continue the project with great caution.

“Most of the time, being cautious works very well,” Marcus said during his presentation. “This is something new that isn’t worth trying ... the Wright brothers didn’t start with a 747.”

Michael Berkshire, a Logansport resident, attended the discussion.

“I’ve heard from the city and Pyrolyzer. Now I’ve heard from the opposition. Now I’d like a third opinion,” he said, adding he thinks the engineering department at Purdue University should examine the project.

Logansport City Councilman Bob Bishop, who voted in favor of negotiating with Pyrolyzer, attended the event as well.

“The only concerns they brought up are ones I already have answers for,” he said. “They didn’t come up with anything new to me that brought up any new concerns.”

About 20 protesters demonstrated outside McHale before the event began, several of whom said they felt Logansport Municipal Utilities jobs will be lost if the Pyrolyzer plant doesn’t come to fruition.

Joe Phelps, assistant director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 62, which represents employees at the LMU generator plant, was among the protesters.

“[The employees] will lose their jobs if this doesn’t go through,” Phelps said of the Pyrolyzer proposal. “Our options are limited. Pyrolyzer’s $650 million to partner with Logansport is unheard of.”

Inside the building, audience members asked the panelists how to go about putting an end to the project.

During the question-and-answer session, one attendee asked how can the project be stopped.

“You can protect your town,” Angel said. “What you’re experiencing here, has for better or worse, happened in other communities all over the country.”

Marcus agreed, adding that CARE may be the way to do just that. At the event’s entrance, several pages of a notebook were filled with contact information of attendees requesting further information from the group.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or