Grassroots Environmental Democracy in Erie

Grassroots Environmental Democracy in Erie

By Timothy Reim,with Keep Erie’s Environment Protected (K.E.E.P.)

In March 2007, Erie Renewable Energy, LLC (ERE) held a public meeting to unveil their plans to construct a waste tire to energy facility on a portion of the now vacant International Paper Hammermill property.This facility, if constructed,would incinerate 800 tons ofwaste tires a day to generate electricity in a residential urban setting. It would be the largest such facility in the United States surpassing a similar tire derived fuel (TDF) facility in Sterling, Connecticut that is less than half its size. The plan has met with vocal opposition from concerned citizens, local college and university faculty, and the Erie environmental community. As a result of many community meetings, a new grassroots environmental group was formed. This network of concerned citizens and environmental activists has named itself K.E.E.P. (Keep Erie’s Environment Protected). K.E.E.P.’s objective is to prevent the largest energy plant fueled by tires from being built within the Erie city limits.

Part of the K.E.E.P.’s effort has focused on raising community wide awareness of the proposal and its potential serious health and environmental effects. Door to door leafleting was begun and a petition to Erie City Council is being circulated. Additionally, donors to K.E.E.P. paid for the ordering of 500 yard signs for residents to display. Later donations have paid for a series of billboards in the city calling for citizens to call Erie City Council about their concerns regarding the proposed tire-burning plant.

The September meeting at Erie City Council chambers drew a crowd of citizens estimated at over 250. Afterwards, Erie City Council passed, by a 4-3 vote, a resolution to ask ERE to voluntarily submit an Environmental Impact Study for the proposed plant. As of the time this article was written, ERE had not responded to Erie City Council’s request.

After the September meeting, Kathleen Jackson, President of the Lawrence Park Township Board of Commissioners, released a letter detailing its opposition to the construction of the proposed tire-burning plant. The letter cited not only critical environmental concerns, but also questioned the impact of the proposed tire-burning plant on property values, regional tourism, and local traffic congestion. The letter stated: “It has been said that this is the best technology available but experimental. This does not mean it is safe. County and City Councils have a great opportunity to protect its residents by not permitting this proposed plant.”

Since the Lawrence Township letter, the Townships of Harborcreek and North East Board of Supervisors have jointly added their voices in opposition to the proposed tire-burning plant. Citing their requirements to act at all times to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of its residents, the two Townships have acted, “By virtue of opposing the proposed tire plant, we are fulfilling that duty.”

Adding its voice to the issue, the Wesleyville Borough Council stated its formal opposition, as well. Taken together, the resolutions by the four Townships represent over 30,000 Erie County residents.

The full extent of ERE’s plans for the Erie region were unveiled December 7th with its submission of an Air Quality permit with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Yearly emissions as reported in ERE’s Air Quality permit application include: nitrogen oxides-354.12 tons a year; sulfur dioxide-99.25 tons a year; particulate matter (dioxins and furans)-229.95 tons a year; volatile organic compounds-27.9 tons a year.

At their December meeting, K.E.E.P. introduced plans for a Continuous Emissions Monitoring System Ordinance to be submitted to Erie City Council. Passage of such an Ordinance would preclude any “Major Air Polluting Facility” from being constructed within the City of Erie. Citizens throughout Erie County are asked to call upon the Erie City Council to protect the community’s environment and consider adopting such an ordinance.

For more information contact:
Keep Erie’s Environment Protected (K.E.E.P.)
www.stopburningtires.com
Tim Reim: (814) 838-1193; (814) 572-6653
Randy Barnes: (814) 875 6304

To contact the City of Erie:
www.erie.pa.us

 

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