By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
WHITE DEER — As opponents and proponents of a proposed tire-derived fuel plant wait for a decision from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, White Deer Township officials said they have not received permit applications for the White Deer Energy Project plant.
Township supervisors also told concerned citizens at a meeting Tuesday night that unless the plant is in violation of municipal ordinances, they cannot reject the applications once they are submitted, said the Rev. Leah Schade, a member of Organizations United for the Environment, one of the groups leading the fight against the proposed plant.
“If it’s in compliance, even if there is unanimous community opposition to this plant, they have to approve it,” Schade said. “They could be sued if the company is in compliance and they’re still refused (permits). It was quite an interesting civics lesson.”
7.2 megawatts of energy
The plant — which would be built by Baltimore-based Emanuel Tires, under the limited liability company En-Tire Logistics, of Milton — would be next to National Gypsum Co.’s West Milton area building.
National Gypsum would be one of the main consumers of the proposed plant’s 7.2 megawatts of produced energy.
DEP is considering the proposal for the plant, with a public comment period due to end July 5, Schade said.
“(En-Tire) is waiting to hear from DEP,” Schade said.
Laws regarding permitting are written to protect the right of companies to conduct business, said Carroll Diefenbach, White Deer supervisors chairman.
“We can’t come up and just say we don’t like something,” said Diefenbach, who confirmed that the township has not received permit applications from En-Tire or National Gypsum.
“These rules are set in place to help protect certain things. Businesses have the right to do business.”
Ralph Hess, White Deer Township zoning director, said if “the township or municipality denies an application, they have to specifically identify the ordinance that the plan or application is not in compliance with.”
OUE and other groups have written “hundreds of letters” to DEP and voiced their opposition to the plant at public meetings. The groups eventually learned from township supervisors about the permitting protocol, Schade said.
Game plan changes
Now armed with the information about the way the permitting works, Schade said the groups will change tactics slightly.
“Our next step will be to go to National Gypsum and ask whether they want to have En-Tire be their energy source,” she said. “If they know the public is united in their opposition to this, maybe they’ll go with another alternative, a clean energy alternative.”
OUE is also organizing members to examine township ordinances, Schade said.
“We have a team of people looking at this and where there are the areas that could possibly be grounds for refusal,” she said.
But until applications are received, everything remains hypothetical, Diefenbach said.
“We’re all just waiting to hear what happens,” he said.