A crowd near 200 large turned out at last nights public forum put on by partnering community groups raising awareness about how a proposed coal to diesel plant in the Dale community could impact the health of local citizens.
The public forum held in the auditorium of Forest Park High School was organized and sponsored through the partnering of Project ACORN, the Sierra Club, and Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life.
A three person panel consisted of Santa Claus physician Dr. Erin Marchand along with Mary Hess who served as the first director of the Dale Community Center and past oil and gas industry insider Randy Vaal, a retired chemical engineer who spent time working as a researcher in natural gas processing.
Rock Emmert with Project ACORN welcomed the crowd made up primarily of Spencer County citizens along with Ferdinand residents who had come to hear the panel speak on topics ranging from the science behind negative health impacts of pollution to information made public by the EPA, to how the process of breaking down coal to be made into to diesel will work.
Along with the range of topics covered time was also spent breaking down a few key points of the Air Permit that was filed by Riverview Energy Corporation, the company looking to build the 2.5 billion dollar facility in Dale, with IDEM’s office of Air Quality.
Dr. Marchand who moved to the area in 2014 after serving six years in the US Air Force and completing a medical residency during her military service says she initially had not medically brought up the subject of pollution in Southern Indiana as being a major factor in causing health issues but after doing some research when hearing of the proposed plant, she says it allowed her to expand her perspective….
Marchand cited that Spencer County was recently ranked 23rd for toxic releases among all United States counties included in the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. Industry facilities currently in the county include AK Steel and the Michigan power plant at Rockport.
Another question is will this be a good long-term investment?
Randy Vaal who worked as a chemical process engineer for Chevron specifically working with natural gas processing says what’s happening in Dale with the proposed plant seems similar to the oil price shock of the late 1970’s when industry leaders where investing money in developing advanced oil recovery techniques because of economic projections……
Researchers say that in terms of the engineering process of coal to diesel its a very expensive process and will not be able to compete with natural fuels now or any time in the near future.
And while the grasp at finding new techniques to refine fuel might be a shot in the dark financially, especially since the proposed Dale plant will be the first of its kind in the US, Vaal says what he’s most concerned for is what happens if it all goes south…..
A similar plant that was proposed by Riverview then under a different name, Clean Coal Refining Corporation, in Vermillion county was ultimately scraped in 2016.
Rock Emmert concluded the evening and thanked the crowd for bringing a mind for listening and knowledge. Emmert said that there is not yet a defined plan for another organized forum and says last nights event was the beginning of an understanding about a trade that goes all north….
An air permit application was submitted by Riverview to IDEM earlier this year and remains in review with the state led agency. The next step if the application is approved by IDEM and the EPA will be a public hearing followed by a decision to bring the plant to Dale.