Notes for attorneys working with groups fighting for Environmental Justice
“Where there is an active community group and no obvious slam dunk case:
It is generally wise to save the big law suit for last, for a lot of reasons.
They can be disempowering – everyone stands around and watches the suit (unless the other stuff is hot). And, they frequently take a long time.
They cost tons of money, so lots of time is spent raising money (instead of raising hell).
If clients raise too much hell, you or someone, will worry about upsetting or alienating the Judge, or providing ammunition to the opposing party.
If you lose, the group will be discouraged – the courts, who have the final say, will have put their stamp of approval on the bad behavior you are challenging.
Why should you let someone, who probably shares very few of your client’s life experiences, decide who wins?
They tend to make you (the attorney) the key decision maker – not the group.
If the community organizes first, and does end up filing a case, they will have already developed community sympathy and support.
If you buy this approach then make sure your clients understand that you will not win this for them they will win it for themselves. They will not do less work because you are on board – probably more. You will help them understand how things fit together, who can give them what they want, where the pressure points are likely to be. Assess their willingness to continue on.”
— Ellis Jacobs, Attorney at Law
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For a hard copy, send a $10 check made to Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund to: Rumpke Audit, Ohio Citizen Action, 2330 Victory Parkway #100, Cincinnati, OH 45206 or pay online with PayPal. Please make sure your mailing address is current on your PayPal account.
Nancy Lindemood interviewed by WCPO.
Melissa English, Southwest Ohio Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action
Melissa English filmed by WCPO.
Karen Stevenson at press conference
CINCINNATI — “Today neighbors of the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill, Property Owners Want Equal Rights (P.O.W.E.R.), and Ohio Citizen Action released a report titled The Future is Now: A Citizens’ Audit of the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill. It lays out our arguments against the proposed 350-acre expansion of the Rumpke landfill in Colerain Township, documents decades of complaints and accidents and presents an alternative waste management proposal to move our region away from dependence on landfills.
The landfill and its neighbors have fought over expansion proposals for decades, but now things are different. In the past, Hamilton County and other communities that use the landfill have seen no other option but to expand. Now we know it’s possible to divert 50%, 75% or more of our waste stream from the landfills by setting goals and deadlines and committing to programs and policies that will get us there. Cities around the nation are already leading the way.
Aggressive waste diversion programs like the ones implemented in Oakland, California and Dubuque, Iowa not only eliminate the perceived need to expand, they have the potential to create new recycling- based jobs, If you live in Hamilton County, one important way you can help is to tell the county solid waste management district to follow the recommendations we make in our audit. Specifically, we recommend they:
- set a deadline for waste diversion goals, which is consistent with the “zero waste” language in its mission statement
- immediately pursue waste generation fees, grants and any other funding sources to resolve the apparent conflict between its zero waste mission and its being fully funded by landfill tipping fees
The Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District is updating its 15 year plan right now and soliciting public input before October 22, so the timing is perfect. Make your comments via website.
— Melissa English, Southern Campaign Director, Ohio Citizen Action
1. Find out how to recycle in your area and recycle everything you can.
Most of the solid waste management agencies in our area have lots of information about curbside, business and drop-off options. You can also find out if household hazardous waste or electronics recycling is available nearby. Your town, village or city website should also have up-to-date information. Here are a few places to start:
Greater Cincinnati can recycle the following items: All paper (except books with glue bindings and paper products contaminated with food residue), cardboard boxes (broken down into 3 foot sections), plastic bottles and jugs #1-7 (only containers with smaller mouths than bottoms), aluminum & steel cans and glass bottles and jars. Please do not try to recycle plastic tubs (like butter tubs), plastic grocery bags, food trays from frozen food, plastic or Styrofoam clamshells, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, glass tableware, plastic plates/cups/utensils.
2. Keep unwanted clothing, household goods, toys, construction and demolition waste out the landfill.
Set aside your unwanted reusable items until you can make a trip to a non-profit drop-off center like Goodwill, Salvation Army or Building Value. Sometimes you can even get a tax-deduction.
3. Compost your yard waste and food scraps.
You can create your own mulch or improve your soil by starting your own compost pile. If you prefer, some areas have yard waste drop off sites or even curbside collection. You can find more information on your county solid waste management website.
4. Reduce your household’s waste stream by making wise consumer choices.
Buying in bulk, reusable shopping bags and avoiding bottled water is just the beginning. Learn more at http://myzerowaste.com/.
5. Advocate for blocking the landfill expansion and improving recycling in your community.
Write to your city or village council, township trustees and county commissioners. Tell them they should oppose expansion of the landfill in Colerain Township and instead work to divert more waste through recycling improvements. Hamilton County in particular offers Residential Recycling Incentive grants for communities to start or improve recycling programs and awards dollars based on participation. More information at http://www.hcdoes.org/SWMD/GrantOpps/GrantOpps.html
6. Recycle at work.
Local, state and federal grants are also available for commercial and industrial recycling programs and waste audits. Some areas offer technical assistance and materials exchanges that help one business’ trash become another’s raw material.
7. Spread the word about the need to transition away from landfills.
Letters to the editor, blogs, check-out line conversations and linking our website (http://www.ohiocitizen.org) to your Facebook page are key ways to get people to think about their trash and their future.
8. Learn more about the international movement to transition away from landfills and garbage incinerators.
Baard Energy CEO John Baardson speaks to the World Coal-To-Liquids Conference in Washington, DC, March 2009, the same month he withdrew his application for U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees.
COLUMBUS — On December 22, 2008, John Baardson, CEO Baard Energy, analyzed the prospects for financing a coal refinery in Wellsville in a loan guarantee application to the U.S. Department of Energy:
Debt markets in chaos
In today’s environment, there is no debt available to projects like Ohio River Clean Fuels [the coal refinery]. Debt markets are essentially closed to all large-scale project finance companies, even without considering the technology integration risk. Until debt markets markedly improve, the prospects for raising commercial debt for Ohio River Clean Fuels are dim. It is unclear when conditions will improve.
Equity requires assurances that debt will be available
Our discussions with potential equity investors indicate that “forward funding risk” is paramount to them right now. Equity investors are reticent to invest in the early stage of projects because of the risk that commercial debt markets will not be open or won’t be reasonably priced when the time comes to obtain construction financing. A U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee mitigates this risk and will enable Ohio River Clean Fuels to secure equity sooner and on more reasonable terms.
1. We agree with your December 2008 analysis. Without a loan guarantee, you had no prospects for financing the coal refinery. No grants, no loans, no equity. Given that, why did you doom the refinery project by pulling your loan guarantee application?
2. Since you did pull the plug on your only chance at financing, why have you continued to maintain — publicly at least — that the project is going ahead?
Why are you asking Wellsville businesses to lobby for a federal loan guarantee application that doesn’t exist? According to the February 27, 2010 Morning Journal
[On February 25, Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce President Randy Allmon] said [Baard President Steve] Dopuch asked the chambers to have their members send letters to President Obama, urging him to support the coal-to-liquid fuel plant. Copies of the letters were distributed to members… [the letter] notes that Baard Energy is ‘fully permitted for construction in Wellsville, Ohio,’ but needs a Department of Energy loan guarantee.
- Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action
Our Good Neighbor Campaign Handbook was published in 2006, and is available on Amazon and the other major on-line booksellers.
It is a 168-page guide to how to win the kind of anti-pollution campaigns we have been waging in Ohio and elsewhere. The chapters were written by people who have learned the lessons from experience: Rachael Belz, Hilton Kelley, Kim Klein, Denny Larson, Teresa Mills, the late John O’Connor, and Paul Ryder.
Purchase the book at Amazon.com or download a copy (2.1 MB pdf)
Good neighbor campaigns
Continue reading How to win
COLUMBUS — “Baard Energy says its proposed coal-to-liquid refinery for Wellsville will help the United States become more more energy independent. Sounds great, but the arithmetic doesn’t work. Let’s start at the refinery level. Typically, for every one ton of coal fed into a refinery using this technology, two barrels of liquid fuel come out the other end, according to a U.S. Department of Energy study. The Baard Energy proposal is no exception. They say they will use 9.3 million tons of coal a year to produce 53,000 barrels a day of liquid fuel. That works out to 2.08 barrels per ton of coal.
Now back to energy independence. Imported crude oil is about 60% of U.S. consumption. What would it take, using the coal-to-liquids technology, to displace just 10% of U.S. oil consumption? It would require a 42% increase in U.S. coal production, or 475 million tons more coal every year, to run these refineries, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
This is simply not going to happen. People will not stand for it,” Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
COLUMBUS — “It would help neighbors in Wellsville and the surrounding area to know what a plant like Baard Energy wants to build looks like in real life. Here is one, in Secunda, South Africa, that uses the same technology Baard plans to use.
If this looks like a refinery, its because that’s what it is. The name ‘Ohio River Clean Fuels Coal-To-Liquids Facility’ was chosen to avoid having to call it a refinery. A ‘refinery’ is defined as ‘an installation that manufactures finished petroleum products from crude oil, unfinished oils, natural gas liquids, other hydrocarbons, and oxygenates.’ Coal is a hydrocarbon, and the Baard plant is a refinery,” Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Continue reading Baard Energy wants to build an “Ohio River Clean Fuels Coal-To-Liquids Facility” in Wellsville. What is that? What would it look like?
The Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund, formerly the Citizens Policy Center, is the non-profit education and research affiliate of Ohio Citizen Action. It is led by Executive Director Rachael Belz. The Education Fund has issued 240 reports, studies, and other publications.
Continue reading Reports, studies and other publications 1976-2009
The Baard Energy Company of Vancouver, Washington, wants to build a $6.8 billion coal refinery in Wellsville, on the Ohio River.
The last thing Ohio needs is another expensive, polluting coal plant
Baard Energy calls its plant the “Ohio River Clean Fuels Coal-To-Liquids Facility.” That’s misleading: there’s nothing clean about it. It will be a filthy belching refinery. A “refinery” is defined as “an installation that manufactures finished petroleum products from crude oil, unfinished oils, natural gas liquids, other hydrocarbons, and oxygenates.” Coal is a hydrocarbon, and the Baard plant is a refinery.
Washington, Baard Energy’s home state, has a total of one coal plant. Ohio already has 27 coal plants within its boundaries, and more on the other side of the Ohio River. The third largest Ohio coal-fired power plant, the 2,316 megawatt W.H. Sammis plant in Stratton, and one of the largest hazardous waste incinerators in the world, the Waste Technologies Industries facility in East Liverpool, are both within 10 miles of the proposed coal plant.
The Baard coal refinery would require 9.3 million tons of coal a year, or 186 million tons over 20 years.
Here is what Ohio EPA permits would allow the proposed Baard coal refinery to put into our air every year:
Source: Ohio EPA permits for the proposed Baard coal plant in Wellsville, Ohio, compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The permitted emissions do not take into account possible flaring due to process upsets or emergencies, when pollutants may be sent out untreated. Of the permitted pollutants, many emissions would be concentrated in start-ups and shut-downs at the facility. Hazardous air pollutants are a group of 25 pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act. They include lead, formaldehyde, and solvents such as benzene. “Particulates (PM 10)” is a subset of “Particulates total”, but are reported separately.
The soot Baard Energy plans to emit can cause shortness of breath, aggravate asthma and bronchitis, increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and heart attacks or even premature death in people with heart and lung disease. The refinery would straddle the border of Columbiana and Jefferson Counties, an area that already violates public health standards for soot.
Why should neighbors in Columbiana and Jefferson Counties be subjected to another major source of air pollution?
Prices for the kind of coal Baard says it will use have risen sharply due to increased exports. If Baard Energy adds another 9.3 million tons a year to demand, that will push coal prices higher, and that means higher electricity costs.
This coal refinery would be a potential new market for mountaintop removal coal
Baard Energy wants to burn 9.3 million tons of coal a year in its proposed coal refinery. Where would it come from? Baard Energy won’t pin itself down to an answer, except that it will be “bituminous” coal. This kind of coal can be found from Pennsylvania to northern Alabama, with the heaviest concentrations in West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, and in Illinois, Colorado and Utah. That’s a very large area, centered on the region where mountaintop removal is underway.
Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining where mountains are literally blown up — devastating communities throughout Appalachia, polluting drinking water and destroying rivers. So far, 500 Appalachian mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal. Reclamation is not possible.
What is certain is that the biggest supply of coal with easy Ohio River access to the proposed Baard coal plant is West Virginia, where the worst mountaintop removal coal mining is going on.
Why would we want to give mountaintop coal mining a new market?
The origin of the coal-to-liquid process
The Baard Energy company plans to use a technology developed for use in World War II. In the 1930s, Hitler prepared Germany to fight a world war with no secure supplies of oil. The solution was to make oil from coal, using the Fischer-Tropsch process at 13 synthetic fuel plants. After 1944, when oil supplies from Nazi-aligned Romania were bombed out, Luftwaffe planes flew, and the Reich tanks rolled, almost exclusively on coal-derived gasoline.
In 1944, U.S. bombers destroyed this synthetic fuel refinery at Zeitz, Germany, just south of Leipzig, which had produced liquid fuel from locally available brown coal since 1938. In 1955, apartheid South Africa began to experiment with the Fischer-Tropsch coal-to-liquid process, and greatly increased its use as international sanctions for apartheid rule escalated.
Environmental and Economic Problems
- Fact Sheet on Baard Energy’s Coal-to-Liquids Facility, Natural Resources Defense Council, undated.
- Perspective on Cleaner Coal, U.S. EPA, October 24, 2006.
- Producing Alternative Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass in Wellsville, Ohio, Ohio River Clean Fuels, December 12, 2006.
- Baseline Technical and Economic Assessment of a Commercial Scale Fischer-Tropsch Liquids Facility, U.S. Department of Energy, April 9, 2007.
- Project Summary, Coal and Biomass to Liquids, 53,00 barrels/day plant, Wellsville, Ohio, Ohio River Clean Fuels, LLC (Baard Energy),July 10, 2007
- Transcript, Public Hearing, Draft Permit to Install at Ohio River Clean Fuels, Wellsville, Ohio, Ohio EPA, September 10, 2008.
- Response to Governor’s Questions, Baard Energy, November 17, 2008.
- Loan Guarantee Application to Department of Energy, Part 1, Baard Energy, December 22, 2008, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.