Spencer County residents speak out about proposed coal to diesel refinery

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A packed housed Wednesday night at Heritage Hills High School as a community weighed in on a proposed plant for Spencer County. 

Riverview Energy Corporation has proposed to bring a $2.5 billion facility to convert coal into diesel fuel in the town of Dale, Indiana.

The Riverview Energy website says the plant will bring more than 2,000 construction jobs to the area, but some residents are more concerned about air pollution.

Riverview Energy says it is a “clean coal project” because it does not burn or gasify coal. 

The proposed plant would be built on a 500 acre plot of land off Interstate 64 and Highway 231, north of east County Road 2000 North. 

It was standing room only in the auditorium of Heritage Hills High School.

Many were there to support the project while others were there to take a stand against it.

Those supporting it say it will bring a lot of new jobs to their small community, while those against it say those jobs will come at a price to the entire community.

“When are we going to grow up in Southern Indiana and realize that there’s jobs to be had in real employment and not these dreams of using fossil fuels for destroying our health?” asked Valley Watch’s John Blair. “When are we going to realize that?”

Passionate pleas were made on both sides at the hearing hosted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Health.

Residents were allowed to say anything they wanted about the project, but the panel from IDEM couldn’t respond.

The audience was a mix of those on both sides.

“Let us bring in industrial development and create an industrial base and maintain one,” said one man who supports the proposal. “I urge IDEM to go ahead and recommend that you go ahead and authorize the issue of the permit as you drafted.”

While many in the audience applauded that statement, others who spoke were against the proposal, citing environmental and health issues the plant could bring to their community.

“Is that what you want?” asked Blair. “You want to destroy the heath of your neighbors and friends to have one guy in Greenwich, Connecticut become a billionaire? Is that what you want?”

One pediatrician referred to a recent study that she says shows the effects of pollution on children.

“One study showed only six hours of moderate metropolitan air pollution produced brain changes in mice consistent with autism,” she said.

Two high school students, who didn’t speak before the panel say they wanted to attend the meeting to learn more about the possible effects the pollution could have on them and others their age.

“I’m in an environmental science class, so we’re learning a lot about the environment and I think it’s going to have some bad effects on the environment,” said Rylen Cox.

“There’s a lot of like health effects that people aren’t looking at I think,” said Josh Nelson. “Like someone mentioned earlier, there’s a bunch of like, around here there’s a higher percentage of like birth defects in kids already alone because Indiana already has like a bad air pollution rate and to add that coal diesel plant here would just make the rate go way higher.”

There was no overview of the proposal presented during the meeting.

It was just a meeting to allow residents to speak out.

IDEM officials say they will take all comments made tonight into consideration.

They plan to make a decision in the coming months. 

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(This story was originally published on December 5, 2018)

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