Group launches campaign against Fibrowatt

First Posted: 6/10/2009

DOBSON A local group announced yesterday that it is launching a county-wide campaign to stop the proposed Fibrowatt poultry manure incinerator in Elkin.
The group is Citizens Alliance for a Clean, Healthy Economy (CACHE), a chapter of the statewide Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), which was established two weeks ago. The group said it opposes the incinerator because of its concerns of health effects, harmful environmental impacts, economic concerns and loss of local control.
A representative of BREDL said the county-wide campaign in Surry will include pressing the local officials for documents of pollution violations from a Fibrowatt-operated plant in Minnesota and contacting the state Environmental Management Commission to implement what regulations should be for poultry incinerators.
Recently we learned on the first of this month, the Surry County Board of Commissioners has got a copy of violations from the Fibrominn Plant based in Benson, Minn., and they are not available to those in the Surry, Sampson, Montgomery counties, which are targeted for these incinerators, Janet Marsh, the executive director of BREDL, said Wednesday. There are a variety of air poisons and toxins and contaminants created in the incineration process.
CACHE is asking for a sunshine campaign, she continued. We want to put a spotlight on Minnesota before anyone decides to provide water or other resources for the proposed incinerator in North Carolina.
She said that a Surry County resident and member of CACHE asked the county commissioners to provide Surry County citizens a copy of the documented violations, and the commissioners said it was not in their authority to do so.
They reported that they had information, but could not provide the information because of an agreement with the Minnesota Attorney General. So we ask them to ask Fibrowatt to release information. We are looking at one plant in the whole nation for assurance that everything is going to be all right, but there is not data available on emissions or violations available to us.
Craig Hunter, the chair of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, said he was aware that a handful of environmental activists have been around for a couple of years and are still claiming to be waging an anti-Fibrowatt campaign across the Northwest Piedmont. He mentioned that some of those groups include BREDL, The Committee for Responsible Economic Development (CRED) and the YADKIN Riverkeepers.
Because these groups have intentional disseminated false information and resorted to scare tactic activism to further their anti-growth and anti-business agendas, none of these groups or their supporters have any credibility with me or the board of commissioners. We will always listen to facts and listen to our citizens, but once groups like BREDL and YADKIN Riverkeepers resort to the disrespectful behaviors they have displayed and continue to spew lies and half truths, their agendas will fall on deaf ear.
The group released a press release yesterday that included commentary from local citizens who are also against the Fibrowatt plant.
The release read, Many CACHE members have concerns about the harmful effects of air poisons. Bill and Judy Walker live within a half-mile of the proposed site. Judy has existing breathing problems. She said, Living that close to the site is scary. Our number one concern is the health risk of people in this area from breathing contaminated air and eating products grown in contaminated soil.
The release also included statements from Ralph and Jane Shoemaker, stating they were are also concerned about potential adverse health impacts.
According to the release, Ralph Shoemaker said, Our county and town representatives seem to be seeing only dollar signs and dont seem to care about the health of the people they were elected to represent.
He continued, Now the county of Surry, and town of Elkin, want to have a plant in our back yard that burns chicken manure which has been shown to be dirtier than burning coal.
The release said CACHE members are concerned about damaging sulfur dioxide emissions from Fibrowatt. Vineyards are important to the Surry County economy. Because the group understands that dirty industry draws more dirty industry, CACHE wishes to attract more vineyards, more tourism and more green jobs to Surry County.
Paul Johnson, the vice chair of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, said the board had heard that there may be a county-wide campaign, but that it was not concerned about it.
Fibrowatt has had a plant going in Great Britain for 13 years and hasnt had any violations, there hasnt been any documents that show peoples health is any worse condition than before those plants. Why would a plant be built in U.S. that is harmful when theyve already had success in Great Britain for 13 years in a place that has the same air quality requirements, if not higher, he said Wednesday.
In response to not sharing the documents about violations, Johnson reiterated that the board does not have the authority and it is not yet public information.
We dont have the authority to release the documents from Minnesota until their agencies declare them as public document. As of right now, it is not a public document (and) there is nothing in that report that would change my mind about Fibrowatt, he said. The commissioners have voted and were not changing our minds about the project.
He added that the group was exhausting its efforts, and that it should move on.
We have a lot of things to do, were moving on and they should do it, too, he said. Theyre out there, so far out, they dont really know where theyre at. If Fibrowatt had its permit, Id give it a groundbreaking tomorrow.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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