August 7, 2013

Cass commissioners mulling new emissions ordinance

Proposed ordinance would set stricter limits than EPA.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Cass County Commissioners are considering legislation, submitted to them by an opponent of Logansport’s power plant project, that would establish limits on air emissions.

Mercedes Brugh spoke on the ordinance at the commissioners meeting Monday. She said she based it on a similar piece of legislation currently being considered in Allentown, Pa., written by Mike Ewall, founder and director of of the Philadelphia-based Energy Justice Network who spoke on a panel organized by Brugh in Logansport in June. The panel questioned Logansport’s power plant project, which Mayor Ted Franklin continues to negotiate with Pyrolyzer LLC, the company out of Boca Raton, Fla., that is seeking to build an electricity plant that uses a process called pyrolysis to turn municipal solid waste into energy.

Addressing the commissioners, Brugh said the proposed ordinance would require that 10 classes of pollutants be monitored and four classes be limited.

The commissioners voted to take the ordinance under advisement. They declined to release the ordinance itself until a decision is made on whether to consider it for a vote.

Brugh mentioned specific pollutants at the meeting, however, including mercury and dioxins.

The proposed ordinance places stricter limits on carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, Brugh said, based on averages for natural gas power plants available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database, which can be found on the agency’s website.

Brugh is also proposing that the county take a more stringent stance on dioxins.

“The dioxin limit is about half of what the EPA allows municipal solid waste incinerators to emit,” she said of the proposed ordinance. “Actually, it’s a pretty easy target for any facility that has modern pollution controls. It should probably be tighter, especially when Cass County is considering very large facilities with tons of emissions.”

Debate continues among those involved in the power plant project and its opponents over the term incineration. Brugh and others have pointed out that the EPA uses the terms combustion and incineration interchangeably and cites pyrolysis as an example in its definition of combustion.

Consultants assisting the city with the project say Pyrolyzer’s form of pyrolysis operates at too low of a temperature in the absence of oxygen to be considered incineration. This claim has also been contested by the project’s opponents, who say that oxygen is in the waste to begin with and shows up in compounds listed in the gas analysis in Pyrolyzer’s proposal.

Bernie Paul, president of Indianapolis-based B Paul Consulting LLC and a consultant assisting the city with acquiring air permits for the plant, said in an email that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management must receive EPA approval before issuing permits for projects like the one in Logansport.

“I can assure you that there will be multiple pollutants that will be measured on a continuous basis and others that will be tested periodically,” he wrote. “This system will be a highly regulated facility with many different means of checking performance.”

If the county adopts regulations of its own, as long as they are stricter than ones already put in place on the state and federal levels, it could force the plant to adhere to an entirely new set of rules.

In an interview, Mayor Franklin called Brugh’s proposal “another attempt to stop the power plant.”

Along with helping to organize the panel in June, Brugh has spoken out against the project at public meetings in the past as well. Her husband, Jim Brugh, is representing Logansport citizen Julie Kitchell in a lawsuit against the city alleging that legislation authorizing it to negotiate with Pyrolyzer is invalid. The case is scheduled to be heard before the Indiana Supreme Court next month.

Franklin also said he hopes the commissioners will consider whether businesses in the county currently adhere to the standards outlined in Brugh’s proposal.