The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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January 11, 2014

Cheaper fuel, public outcry doomed tire burner

NEW COLUMBIA — It was the citizens’ voice — and the plummeting price of natural gas — that prompted National Gypsum to halt plans for a West Milton power generation plant fueled by burning tires, the Charlotte, N.C., company said Friday.

Meanwhile, En-Tire Logistics LLC of Bedford, Texas, which would have operated the facility, plans to regroup and pursue a tire-derived fuel plant elsewhere in Pennsylvania, its chief executive officer told The Daily Item on Friday.

National Gypsum would have bought steam and electricity produced from the plant En-Tire planned to install and operate next to National Gypsum’s Union County facility, a recycled paper plant that uses natural gas to fuel its boiler.  

However, with the price of natural gas considerably lower, using the tire-burning power generator no longer offered a cost savings to National Gypsum, the company said.

On Monday, National Gypsum informed En-Tire it was backing out of the project, Chief Executive Officer Willess Vincent told The Daily Item.

En-Tire is “disappointed” over the demise of what was known as the White Deer Energy Project, Vincent said.

“We will be looking for another site for the facility and will absolutely look in Pennsylvania,” he said, but would not disclose where. “Right now, we are regrouping.”

Vincent signed the written request sent Thursday to the state Department of Environmental Protection to shelve the air-quality permit approval the agency granted the project in September.

“The main thing is the project is environmentally sound,” Vincent said, noting what began in 2011 as a roughly $12 million investment ballooned to just more than $50 million to meet regulations for air pollutants and other emissions.

“We wanted to make it environmentally safe,” he said, “and we did what we needed to do for that.”

In its statement Friday, En-Tire said the technology proposed for the combined heat and power facility “did and will continue to meet state and federal environmental standards for such facilities at any alternative location.”

National Gypsum said it still “firmly believes the En-Tire project is environmentally sound and would have provided good-paying jobs” to Union County. The operation was expected to create about 35 positions.

However, “The company also has heard and considered the objections of the White Deer community. National Gypsum has been a long-time citizen of the area with a good working relationship with area residents,” the statement said. “We want that relationship to continue.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” White Deer Township Supervisor Don Wilver said, adding that National Gypsum has been at the Union County location more than 40 years. “That speaks well of them as a partner in the community. They’ve been great a business in our community, and we’re really happy to have them.”

Public safety always was his main concern, Wilver said, regardless of how many jobs the tire-burning plant would have created.

“Whatever the project is, whether it’s two jobs or 200 jobs ... having jobs always has to be balanced with the larger public interest,” he said.

Wilver called the citizens’ effort to fight the plant “a great testament to the public’s involvement ... It’s a great example of grassroots activity that was really helpful and valuable in bringing it to this conclusion.”

The Tire Burner Team, a group that vocally and persistently protested the plant, will meet Tuesday “not only to celebrate the news, but also to begin assembling a record of our community activism,” member Peter Mackey said.

The group wants to share its steps with other organizations, but also be ready to re-commit to stopping the tire burner “should any such plans emerge again.”

The Tire Burner Team also wants to discuss working with Valley leaders to implement ordinances that would “stop the next fight of this kind before it begins,” Mackey said.

National Gypsum also reassured West Milton facility employees it is “committed to supporting their plant, and plans to invest in the plant this year” by modernizing recycled paper stock preparation capabilities.

The West Milton facility produces paper from recycled stock that is then used to face gypsum wallboard made at other company locations.

The Tire Burner Team called it “a credit to (National Gypsum)” that it took this occasion as an opportunity to affirm its commitment to the West Milton operation, as well as “acknowledging the community concerns about the tire burning plans influenced their decision to cancel their contract.”

 

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