Friday, February 24, 2012

Update: US EPA Blocks Cleveland's Trash-Gassing Plant, For Now

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 5:14 PM

SmokeStack2.jpg

The City of Cleveland fired the Mysterious Mr. Tien yesterday, saying that his Princeton Enviromental Group failed to accurately reveal how much money the city could make from a trash gasification plant, and how much trash his proposed gasifier could process.

The city also says that the reports Tien completed as part of his $1.5 million contract were inadequate, full of erroneous calculations, and “riddled with grammatical errors.”

The move came hours after the U.S. EPA said the permit application for the plant needed substantial work in order not to violate Clean Air Act rules.

Meanwhile, the city and Cleveland Public Power submitted a host of changes to the Ohio EPA, hoping to bring the proposed plant within federal Clean Air Act regulations. Among them: Making the plant smaller with six gasifiers instead of eight and three furnaces instead of four, installing additional pollution control technology, and building 200-foot smokestacks instead of 175-foot stacks (this spreads pollutants out over a wider area so they aren’t so concentrated in that particular neighborhood).

Although Cleveland hopes the Ohio EPA will let them simply revise the current application, EPA spokesman Mike Settles says the agency has not yet determined whether a modification will suffice, or whether a whole new application will be needed. “We don’t know if these things they are proposing will keep them under the maximum allowable levels,” he says. “We’ve had discussions with the U.S. EPA and [Cleveland Public Power] and will be having more.

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The feds just threw a kink into Cleveland Public Power’s plan to build a trash gasification plant on Ridge Road. The US EPA issued a letter this afternoon stating if the Ohio EPA issues a permit for the plant based on the pollution numbers provided by Peter Tien’s Princeton Environmental Group, it would consider the permit “in violation of federal requirements.”

Cleveland Public Power and Pinceton Environmental claimed on the permit application that the plant would be a “minor” source of pollution and provided emission numbers they thought would qualify it as such. However, the US EPA says that’s not so. The trash gassing plant instead, would be a major pollution source according to how it reads the numbers. The feds are insisting that the permit application be redone.

This development not only delays the garbage plant, but represents a significant financial setback for Peter Tien. The city had agreed to pay him $1.5 million for working up the numbers and getting the Ohio EPA permit approved.Tien represents a Japanese gasification manufacturer and hoped Cleveland would choose its equipment to become the first trash-gassing municipality in the country.

We're guessing Tien is holding off on plans for a beachfront villa.

Scene wrote about the rather slippery Peter Tien here.

Cleveland and Tien claim the facility, which would cost at least $180 million, would turn garbage into a money-making commodity that would also produce 7 percent of the electricity Cleveland Public Power needs every year. The city has never had a plan for actually gathering enough money together to build the plant.

Residents and environmentalist groups from throughout the state have opposed the plan, saying the air around here is dirty enough, and that other recycling efforts would be cheaper and provide more jobs. Last month, Congressman Dennis! Kucinich said he would take the issue, along with Scene’s cover story on Tien, to the US EPA.

The Ohio EPA was accepting public comments until today and expected to rule on whether it would issue a permit for the trash-gassing plant sometime this spring. As soon as we find out whether the Ohio EPA and Cleveland Public Power plan on retooling the permit application, we will let you know.

Incidentally, the City of Cleveland's own Division of Air Quality is the local agency in charge of evaluating permit applications for the Ohio EPA and therefore, the city was evaluating it's own permit application. The feds didn't comment in today's letter on whether that was at all peculiar.

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