After the approval of the settlement offer made to the City of Jasper by Healthy Dubois County, Inc. last week, HDC representatives stated they would hold their comments until after the judge signed the order dismissing the case.
The order stating both parties will drop their cases against each other was signed by Knox Circuit Judge Sherry B. Gregg Gilmore on Friday.
Today, HDC released a statement regarding their position and the reason they have settled with the city. Here is their statement regarding the Jasper Clean Energy lease.
Healthy Dubois County, Inc., acknowledges the manner of operation of the southern Indiana courts, and recognizes that further litigation would be unlikely to yield public benefits sufficient to justify further expenditure of community resources.
Furthermore, contrary to city statements, HDC believes that the biomass incinerator is no longer viable and that this is a positive development for the fiscal and physical health of the citizens and the ratepayers.
With the voluntary dismissal of Open Door Law violation lawsuit signed by the Judge, the City of Jasper owes its citizens many explanations. City officials stated that the lawsuit has not impeded the project, but later stated the opposite. At no time has HDC’s litigation legally prevented the Jasper Clean Energy project from proceeding. The city and Twisted Oak claimed the plant would be running in 2013.
HDC is concerned that Jasper is discussing issuing ratepayers a price increase while the city has not required Jasper Clean Energy Center to adhere to its signed lease agreement. Jasper states the city has spent nearly $600,000 defending a lawsuit Bill Kaiser originally called “frivolous, meritless, groundless, baseless, and vexatious.”
Per Article XX of the lease, Jasper’s litigation cap is $200,000, and accordingly it appears JCEC owes the ratepayers several hundred thousand dollars. Mayor Schmitt stated in a local newspaper on August 4, 2011, “The city has negotiated this provision in order to help protect the citizens from the cost of litigation . . .” That provision can be found here.
This protection clause apparently is now being ignored, when last Friday, Bud Hauersperger stated this provision did not apply. Will the city really forego reimbursement of hundreds of thousands of dollars? In contrast, HDC received a significant Indiana Utility Ratepayers Trust grant in 2013. Recipients are limited to those working to protect ratepayers’ interests.
HDC agrees with Terry Seitz’s June 2011 prophetic statement that the project could “polarize” and “bog down” our community, economically has too much “risk” for the ratepayers, and that “it would be foolhardy to ignore the public stand of many qualified members of our medical community.”
All the public health concerns of this fiasco remain. The city calls this project “clean and green” but fails to respond to HDC’s warnings of dangerous levels of dioxins–one of most harmful toxins on earth–that the incinerator would produce. The public deserves to know why Jasper chose to believe unsubstantiated public health conclusions made by combustion physicist Christopher Shaddix instead of concern voiced by 40+ local doctors. Additionally, twenty thousand doctors of the Massachusetts Medical Society condemned biomass combustion as a health danger, while the city relied upon the statement of one man with a conflict of interest and no medical credentials.
The city has repeatedly minimized the unanimous Court of Appeals decision, resulting in an order for a new trial. The COA lambasted Jasper for repeatedly illegally obstructing HDC from obtaining documents it was entitled to receive. The city said only a few documents existed and had been delivered, but two years later the city delivered 13,000 more pages of documents. Still, Jasper did not deliver nearly all the relevant non-proprietary e-mails and documents that HDC was entitled to receive. Contrary to city statements, HDC still contends more strongly than ever that Jasper violated Indiana’s Open Door Law.
HDC has had to pay out huge amounts of money for legal costs throughout this litigation. Unfortunately, unlike the city, ordinary citizens do not have the same amount of resources to cover such litigation. Consequently, HDC felt compelled to voluntarily dismiss the case given HDC’s expectation that the project is no longer viable.
Future HDC statements and public presentations will address Indiana’s 44th to 49th ranking in air pollution as it relates to Indiana’s abysmal infant mortality rate–47th in the nation, which is worse than Cuba. Meanwhile, HDC strongly encourage citizens to ask questions, to stay engaged in this process, and to seek transparency in local government. Our air, our health, and the well-being of our families are at stake. If the city finds a way to proceed with this project, HDC will continue to oppose it. All citizens have the right to oppose a polluting incinerator in a residential neighborhood. It is our constitutional right to do so.