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Ohio Citizen Action

by Sandy Buchanan

Residents of Cleveland and neighboring suburbs are turning out in full force to protest the City of Cleveland’s plans to build a garbage incineration facility designed to generate electricity at the Ridge Road Transfer Station on the city’s near west side.

In late January, two public meetings held by the city drew standing room only crowds at the Estabrook Recreation Center on Fulton Road, with dozens of people speaking out in opposition of the proposed plant.

Dr. Anne Wise, a physician at Neighborhood Family Practice two blocks from the proposed site, testified at both hearings saying that her patients already suffer from breathing problems and heart disease, aggravated by Cleveland’s poor air quality. She described how one of her patients didn’t need her oxygen tank when she vacationed to southern Ohio, but had to use it again when she came home to Cleveland.

Andy Dzurick, a Cleveland resident that lives one mile from the Ridge Road transfer station, agreed with Dr. Wise, by saying, “It seems like we’ve got plenty of pollution sources already.”

U. S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) testified that the incinerator is not an economically or environmentally sustainable way to make electricity or dispose of trash.

The city has linked the expansion of their curbside recycling program to the building of the garbage incinerator. Resident John Jenkins drew applause at the January meeting when he asked, “Why is the City of Cleveland holding the recycling program hostage to the building of this facility?” Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins probed the city administration on this issue and other council members are advocating that the city look at decoupling these proposals.

Red, black and white, “No Cleveland Incinerator” yard signs are sprouting up all over town, thanks to support from the Northeast Ohio Sierra Club. And at the public hearings, residents were holding up these signs with another message on the back: green signs that say “Yes Recycling/Composting.” The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a draft air pollution permit for the facility. The permit would make the facility one of the largest emitters of several dangerous pollutants in Cuyahoga County, including soot, mercury and lead. The public comment period, which had originally been set for January, has now been extended until Feb. 23 due to the public outcry and the intervention of several members of Cleveland City Council and Mayor Frank Jackson.

Chris Trepal, executive director of Earth Day Coalition, has repeatedly asked the city and the Ohio EPA to provide maps showing where the air pollution would travel when it leaves the facility, since so far they have provided only raw data that can only be opened with proprietary software, making it impossible for residents to access.

Cleveland Public Power’s developer for the facility, Peter Tien, is the same individual who was involved in the failed attempt last year to sell a no-bid LED light bulb contract to Cleveland Public Power, from Chinese manufacturer Sunpo-Optu. For the incinerator deal, he is the U. S. representative for gasification technology developed by a Japanese company called Kinsei-Sangyo. Tien has a no-bid $1.5 million contract with the city, and has repeatedly fallen behind schedule.

Cleveland Public Power says the facility would generate 10 to 15 megawatts of power into its system, whose total peak power is 330 megawatts per year.

Stuart Greenberg, executive director of Environmental Health Watch, testified at the Jan. 9 hearing, saying “Gasification has been sold to the city as a clean technology, which it’s not. There are cleaner ways to generate electricity and cleaner ways to manage waste.”

Ann Knotek, a resident of the Old Brooklyn neighborhood, electrified the crowd at the hearing with a presentation demonstrating the contradictions in the city’s proposal. There are no facilities of this type operating anywhere in the U. S., so none of the pollution estimates come from actual experience with burning the type of garbage generated in the U.S., or at the volume that Cleveland is proposing.

Cleveland Public Power has said that they don’t know what this facility will cost or how they would finance it. Peter Tien originally provided an estimate of $180 million, but told Cleveland Scene in December that the cost would be $300 million.

Want to get involved? Letters can be written to Mayor Frank Jackson at 601 Lakeside Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44114, City Council members at the same address and David Hearne at the Cleveland Division of Air Quality at 75 Erieview Plaza, Suite 200, Cleveland, Ohio, 44114. Letters sent to Hearne by Feb. 23 will be considered part of the official public comment for the Ohio EPA air pollution permit.

For more information, call Ohio Citizen Action at 216-861-5200, email or click here.

Ohio Citizen Action

by Sandy Buchanan

Six environmental and community organizations have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undertake a formal review of the City of Cleveland’s draft air permit for its proposed garbage incinerator on Ridge Road, citing deficiencies in the Ohio EPA's draft permit and the City of Cleveland’s conflict of interest as both the proponent and reviewer of the permit.

As mentioned in an earlier article on EcoWatch.org, Cleveland’s city-owned electric company, Cleveland Public Power, is proposing to bring in garbage from the city and Northeast Ohio region to be “gasified” by using a type of incineration technology new to the U.S. Cleveland Public Power has applied to the Ohio EPA for an air pollution permit for the facility. According to the application, the incinerator would become one of the largest sources of air pollution in Cleveland, especially for soot and mercury.

The groups—Environmental Health Watch, Earth Day Coalition, Northeast Ohio Sierra Club, Ohio Citizen Action, Center for Health Environment and Justice and Natural Resources Defense Council—asked the U.S. EPA for an environmental justice designation for the community, which would require additional scrutiny of the proposal. They also asked the Ohio EPA for a 60-day extension on the public comment period for the draft permit, which now expires on Jan. 13, 2012.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Ohio Citizen Action

by Sandy Buchanan

The City of Cleveland’s proposal to build a new garbage incinerator at its Ridge Road transfer station is drawing opposition from neighborhood residents, environmental groups and public health professionals. Cleveland’s city-owned electric company, Cleveland Public Power, is proposing to bring in garbage from the city and Northeast Ohio region to be “gasified” by using a type of incineration technology new to the U.S.

Cleveland Public Power has applied to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an air pollution permit for the facility. According to the application, the incinerator would become one of the largest sources of air pollution in Cleveland, especially for soot and mercury. Dr. Anne Wise, a physician at Neighborhood Family Practice, a medical clinic just a few blocks away from the proposed incinerator site, said, “Children who live in highly polluted communities tend to have more asthma and respiratory problems than those who don’t—even controlling for things like parental smoking habits. Why should our kids who already have high lead, high levels of asthma, our seniors who are already struggling with lung and cardiovascular diseases in proportions much greater than outside of Cleveland, why should they be subject to these risks even more? They count. They shouldn’t be seen as collateral damage.”

According to the city, the incinerator could increase truck traffic up to 550 trucks per day—which would mean a garbage truck coming in every one and a half minutes. Claudette Wlasuk, who lives near the proposed facility, said, “The traffic is my big concern because you can’t argue about those fumes. The trucks worry me because I am so close to the incinerator, especially if they come from I-480 to Ridge Rd.”

Residents have launched a yard sign campaign with red, black and white signs that say “No Cleveland Incinerator,” and are preparing for meetings and public hearings. Earth Day Coalition, Environmental Health Watch, Northeast Ohio Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action have co-sponsored community meetings in Cleveland with recycling and waste reduction expert Neil Seldman, president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, and Teresa Mills, who led the successful campaign to close the Columbus incinerator.

Neil Seldman, who has worked with cities and small businesses around the country, recommended that the city investigate alternatives to incineration, which would boost the city’s recycling rates and create jobs. The developer of the proposed Ridge Road facility is Peter Tien, the same individual who was the key figure in Cleveland’s failed attempt to set up an exclusive contract with the Chinese Sunpo-Optu light bulb manufacturer. Tien has received a contract for $1.5 million from Cleveland Public Power to apply for an air permit and design the facility. Cleveland Public Power said they are waiting for information from Tien on how much the facility will cost. The latest estimate was $180 million.

Citizens and environmental organizations have challenged the city’s attempts to hide much of the information about the facility as a “trade secret.” After eight months of keeping key data about the proposal out of the public version of the air pollution permit application, the city finally released an unredacted version on Nov. 15, after Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Shannon Fisk forced the issue with the Ohio EPA. Fisk’s letter also challenged the city’s attempts to avoid tougher air pollution restrictions by claiming they will operate the facility in such a way to come in just a fraction under several key emissions thresholds. This maneuver would mean that citizens would not be able to sue to enforce environmental laws, and that the incinerator could add to the overall air pollution of the area without forcing other air polluters to reduce their emissions. Because this facility is experimental, no prototypes exist for residents to examine. But the track record of garbage incinerators in the U.S. is dismal.

The permit for a facility known as Mahoning Renewable Energy in Alliance, which Cleveland Public Power said would have been comparable to the proposed Cleveland plant, was withdrawn in March 2011. The campaign against the facility was led by a local manufacturer of food packaging products who did not want toxic emissions from the facility contaminating his products.

Interested in getting involved? Here’s how—Contact Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson at 601 Lakeside Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44114 or 216-664-3990, and Cleveland City Council at 601 Lakeside Ave., Room 220, Cleveland, Ohio 44114 or 216-664-2840, and let them know why you object to the proposed incinerator.

Join the citizens’ campaign against the incinerator by putting up a yard sign, circulating a petition or participating in neighborhood meetings. Contact Dave Ralph at 216-970-7724 or dralph@ohiocitizen.org, and visit www.ohiocitizen.org and click on Cleveland incinerator.

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