November 6, 2013

Cass commissioners drop emissions ordinances

Commish: Requirements could hurt existing businesses.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Cass County Commissioners have decided not to vote on two ordinances proposed to them by a Logansport citizen that would require licensing and establish more stringent emissions limits on businesses seeking to develop in the county.

Mercedes Brugh proposed the legislation in August as Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin continued to negotiate with Pyrolyzer LLC, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company seeking to develop a power plant in the city powered by refuse-derived fuel.

Brugh has voiced her opposition to the project at public meetings in the past and has organized events led by speakers from across the state and country to address the project, including environmental activists, an economist and a physician.

One of the proposed ordinances would have required new businesses that would discharge more than 100,000 gallons of water per day and combust more than 10 tons of waste per day to acquire a license from the county.

The application process for this license would require the business to submit a detailed description of any new operation falling under the above criteria. Studies would then be conducted in several fields, including public health, environmental, geological and financial. Multiple independent firms and consultants would carry out these studies, with all of it overseen by a committee appointed by the commissioners.

A public hearing would also have to take place before the license could be voted on by the commissioners, the proposed ordinance states.

The Pyrolyzer project would certainly have had to fall under these regulations, as its proposal states the plant would require about three million gallons of water and 4,000 to 6,000 tons of refuse per day.

After acquiring a license under the proposed ordinance, businesses would be subject to the terms of another ordinance proposed by Brugh that would limit four classes of pollutants and monitor 10, including mercury, dioxins, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.

The ordinance would set dioxin limits at about half of what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows municipal solid waste-powered plants to emit.

Dioxins, a toxic compound and byproduct of various industrial processes, continue to be a matter of debate over the project.

Proponents of the plant say the heating process will operate at too low of a temperature in the absence of oxygen to produce dioxins. Brugh and other opponents contest this, pointing to the fact that oxygen will be in the refuse itself and citing the oxygen listed in a gas analysis in Pyrolyzer’s proposal.

The commissioners took the proposed legislation under advisement for about three months, a period of time in which they said they received calls from both those in support of the measures and against them.

The three county leaders announced recently they would no longer be considering the ordinances.

Cass County Commissioners President Dave Arnold said he felt proposed legislation could possibly prevent existing businesses from expanding.

“The more I look at it, any existing business that would have any expansion would also possibly fall under that,” Arnold said. “We’re not here to hurt existing businesses.”

Brugh said she disagrees, adding she is willing to change them to ensure they couldn’t be interpreted this way.

“The ordinances are very modest,” she said. “They only apply to new, large incinerators and only restrict four air pollutants. If there are concerns about the ordinances’ impact upon future expansions of existing Cass County businesses, I welcome adding language that would exempt expansions for existing operations.”

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