Letter: Show us the facts on coal-to-diesel

I refer to the Letter To The Editor by Greg Merle of Riverview Energy on December 12, 2018 (“Riverview: a win-win for area”).

In his letter, Mr. Merle referred to the opposition as a ‘small group’ of “misinformed opponents’. I would like to correct his misstatements.

Perhaps Mr. Merle and I attended different meetings on December 5th.  I was in attendance at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) hearing held at Heritage Hills High School on Dec. 5th, whereby 47 people spoke in opposition to his refinery, while only 7 spoke in support, with the majority of the supporters being associated with the Lincolnland Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) (the people who brought Riverview to the table). Did Mr. Merle find the statements of the area residents of enough importance to attend? Or, is he already that absentee landlord, breathing his clean air in Connecticut, while polluting the air of Southwestern Indiana?   Where are the people supporting this plant, Mr. Merle? They certainly did not voice their support on December 5th.

Though he doesn’t specify, I presume the ‘small group’ Mr. Merle is referring to is Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life (SWICQL). Our group consists of nearly 2000 people, opposed to the construction of this refinery. Contrary to popular belief, we are not a group of ‘Liberals’ as some have suggested, but actually a very balanced group of Republicans and Democrats who put politics aside and instead, work together to protect the quality of life for all people of Southwestern Indiana.  We didn’t take a stance against this plant without first doing our homework. SWICQL members include men and women who hold master’s and doctorate degrees in chemical engineering. This group has voluntarily spent hundreds of hours, pouring over the permit to understand the quantities and types of toxins being dumped into our air by Mr. Merle’s project.

We also have members from the medical community providing us with educational information on the diseases caused by these toxins. Firsthand, they treat, on a daily basis, child after child bearing illnesses aligned with the toxins released by the existing super-polluters in our area.  Spencer County is the 23rd most toxic county in the country, yet Mr. Merle stated in his letter that his refinery will contribute to ‘responsible environmental stewardship’.  How can dumping millions of tons of toxins upon an already heavily-polluted county be considered ‘responsible’?

For Mr. Merle to diminish the brilliant work done by members of SWICQL is extremely short-sighted.  We have an open invitation to Mr. Merle to speak with our group and relay the scientific facts he is utilizing to proclaim this plant is not a threat to our health. Such a meeting would surely resolve the ‘misinformation’ in our group. Instead, Mr. Merle only meets with proponents, knowing they will not question his statements.

We have also asked for the release of the list of 225 jobs promised for this refinery.  Why has this not been disclosed for public review? This plant will require a high number of industry-specific engineers and as is, numerous job postings for engineers in our local communities remain unfilled. Though some will land jobs with this refinery, most jobs will not be filled by our local workforce.

As to Mr. Merle’s remark in his letter regarding the ‘independent experts’ reviewing the application, this rubber-stamped permit is yet another political-favor-deal done by a government who prefers the money from the coal industry over the health of its own citizens. Earlier this year, LEDC posted a photo of Mr. Merle and Indiana’s Governor Holcomb together at an investor’s conference in Switzerland. Indiana’s government has long been aligned with the coal industry. When the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (at the state level) is sponsored by 5 coal-fired power plants, you can understand why Indiana ranks so high (46th of 50) in toxic releases into the air we breathe.

Bluffing is an art, Mr. Merle.  Science is fact. If you can, indeed, show us the facts supporting your message, we truly would love to sit and discuss where we are wrong.  If not, hot-air is just another pollutant to the already-toxic air of SW Indiana.

Jane Schipp

Santa Claus, Indiana

14 Responses to Letter: Show us the facts on coal-to-diesel

  1. Tilly Mickinley December 14, 2018 at 9:33 am #

    The only diesels I enjoy are ice cold Budweisers.

  2. Daryl Hensley December 14, 2018 at 5:11 pm #

    Ms. Schipp here are three facts your group continues to ignore.

    1. The toxins you sight above are overwhelmingly the coal ash from AEP that is captured, stored, sold to concrete manufacturers and used to make concrete that lasts 10X longer than standard concrete. This not only benefits the environment but saves the taxpayers money over the life of this amazing concrete product. This captured toxin is heavily monitored and has no effect on our air quality.

    2. The American Lung Association, not an unbiased organization when it comes to pollution, ranks Spencer county as one of the cleanest counties for air quality. (See page 27)

    3. For a county you claim has such poor air quality, why do you continue ignore the fact that Spencer county hasn’t had a single “Unhealthy Air Quality Day” in 10 years of US EPA monitoring?

    Please don’t overstate your support. 2000 supporters out of a population base of 475,000 means that 1/2 percent of the population supports your position while 99.5 percent either support Riverview Energy or are indifferent to the plant locating here in SW Indiana. If the numbers were so overwhelmingly in your favor, you would not have the need for legal council from EarthJustice.

    https://www.lung.org/assets/documents/healthy-air/state-of-the-air/sota-2018-full.pdf

    https://www.epa.gov/outdoor-air-quality-data/air-quality-index-report

    http://www.iupui.edu/~g115/syllabus/papers/factsheet5.pdf

    Daryl Hensley, Jasper IN

  3. Concerned citizen December 15, 2018 at 10:46 am #

    Mr Hensley,
    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information on Spencer county not having any unhealthy air quality days in the past 10 years. We have had at least 4 ozone alerts since May 2018, many of them for 2-3 days.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjl3KTOlqLfAhWh0YMKHZzNAaMQzPwBegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.courierpress.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Flocal%2F2018%2F07%2F12%2Fozone-alert-southwestern-indiana-friday%2F780609002%2F&psig=AOvVaw1_qE2SHAajpzF1LJgd2Bh_&ust=1544975026270697

    • Daryl Hensley December 15, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

      Concerned Citizen an alert does not factually mean an unhealthy air quality day will occur, it just means the conditions are right for one to occur. The below link will guide you in determining if an actual Unhealthy Air Quality Day was registered.

      https://www.epa.gov/outdoor-air-quality-data/air-quality-index-report

      The US EPA shows the last unhealthy air quality day occurred in 2008.

      BTW, did you notice the other facts linked or did I you ignore them too.

      Daryl Hensley, Jasper IN

  4. Brian DeKemper December 17, 2018 at 12:18 pm #

    Mr. Hensley- the support against this cannot be OVERstated. Especially when taking into account surrounding communities that fall (ever so slightly) outside of Spencer county. I don’t dispute any data that you’ve shared, but I do question how any benefits introduced by the construction (temporary jobs, at best) and operation will outweigh the tremendous risks and unknowns that go along with inserting this plant into our community. If it doesn’t help quality of life or general environmental impact, then I question why we’d debate in favor at all? We should be honest with ourselves and admit that the builders of this plant likely did a ton of research on where to locate this plant… that research likely focused on looking at things like employment data, but also other factors (education level, socioeconomic trends) to look for a place that would have the least resistance to this toxic science experiment. Let’s prove them wrong and show them we are smart enough to ask questions and have the ability and desire to protect our families.

    • Daryl Hensley December 17, 2018 at 11:42 pm #

      Mr. DeKemper, I appreciate the honest discussion. This is what is missing from the review on whether Riverview Energy is a benefit or a impediment to the community. The fear mongering on how polluted the county is, (not so). How the pollution will dramatically increase infant mortality, (not so). etc, etc. These are the same arguments made when AEP and AK Steel came to town and yet, Spencer county has benefited from their stewardship of the environment and the tax dollars generated to keep the roads upgraded and other county benefits via those tax dollars.

      As you may have read, the overstatement of the emissions from Riverview Energy and other charges have in my opinion, hurt NOC2D’s credibility to debate in an honest manner. They misrepresent the facts to rally support and once the true facts are revealed, they lose credibility and face defeat. This might be the biggest reason the city of Dale and the commissioners of Spencer County approved the Riverview project. Surely if the environmental opponents were telling the truth, IDEM and the US EPA would have not approved the project, When the facts bore out that the NOC2D facts were not true based upon the IDEM permit.

      Quality of life is subjective. What you may deem poor quality another may find life changing. Here is the true value of Riverview Energy, leaving out the benefits to the environment by manufacturing low emission diesel fuel. Sure 2000 construction jobs are temporary but if the project could last 2-5 years to construct, those locals who travel every week elsewhere to work can now work closer to home and that will be life changing for their families.

      Let’s look at the 255 jobs created at Riverview Energy. Stick with me because this is critical and difficult for others to understand should they read this post as well. Manufacturing is a job multiplier industry. For every dollar spent by Riverview, another $1.48 is spent to support it.

      Riverview Energy will produce 4.8M barrels of diesel per year. Each barrel at the December 14 2018 wholesale price is $96.25 per barrel. That means the sales of diesel fuel alone for Riverview will be $462M per year. Riverview will also be manufacturing 2.5M barrels of Naphtha. The current wholesale price for Naphtha per barrel is $473.62. Multiply that against 2.5M barrels and the revenue generated is $1.2B. All together the revenue could be as high as $1.6B per year. Riverview will need 6-7000 tons of coal a day to make 4.8M barrels of diesel fuel and 2.5 M barrels of Naphtha.

      A Single miner can mine 6.8 tons a day. This means that Riverview will be supporting 882 full time mining jobs. What you may not know is that SW Indiana sits on a 500 year supply of coal.
      There are roughly 2500 miners in SW Indiana. With an 11% increase in demand for coal locally that number could climb to 2750-3000 miners, an increase of 250-300 full time jobs. The starting average wage for a coal miner is $60k per year. $60K is the median income for a family in Spencer county. If the spouse chooses to work, they could easily have a family median income well above the county average. Many coal miners who work in Warrick and Dubois county live in Spencer county.

      Getting the coal to Riverview will require trains and trucks. This will generate up to 100-150 new full time jobs. Getting the diesel to market will require more drivers, not factored in to the 255 new Riverview Energy jobs.

      Those 255 jobs could generate up to 1000 new full time jobs and we haven’t even talked about the jobs created when Dale updates its infrastructure.

      The United States outsourced our manufacturing to other countries and sent those low paying jobs overseas. Riverview is manufacturing a much needed commodity and creating higher wage jobs in doing so. Riverview Energy could increase the GDP of SW Indiana by $2.4B per year over the next few decades. That is life changing dollars for many in SW Indiana.

      A rising tide lifts all boats. The money spent to support Riverview Energy will benefit all…grocers, farmers, restaurants, retail, tourism and most importantly the nations environment from using the low emission diesel fuel they will produce.

      https://www.industryweek.com/global-economy/competitive-edge-manufacturings-multiplier-effect-its-bigger-you-think

      https://www.mapi.net/blog/2016/04/infographic-new-model-manufacturings-multiplier-effect

      https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=35232

      http://www.indianacoal.com/uploads/4/1/6/8/41682899/2017_indiana_coal_production.pdf

      Daryl Hensley, Jasper IN

  5. Bill C December 18, 2018 at 9:53 am #

    Everyone is focused on the air emissions concern (nothing like the smell of rotten eggs from sulfur dioxide or mothball odors from the naphtha). What about the surrounding land and water? The proposed plant location is in an area of karst (shallow limestone, think of Marengo Cave), which is very susceptible to contaminant migration, and directly adjacent to the Dale Reservoir. Has an environmental impact study been performed?

    One article states a 20 mile pipeline would draw water from the aquifer adjacent to the Ohio River, and then discharge the “treated” water back into the aquifer. There is no way the treated water will actually be clean, or they would re-use it. And, Indiana tax payers foot the bill for this pipeline (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/28/dale-indiana-a-tiny-town-fights-a-massive-coal-to-diesel-refinery/).

    What about providing some environmental information about areas surrounding current C2D plants in China and Russia – that would be extremely useful.

    • Daryl Hensley December 18, 2018 at 10:20 pm #

      Bill C, thanks for linking to the NOC2D talking points, these are easy to debunk. NOC2D knows the answers to your questions, they just want to keep you ignorant to the answers.

      Those smells they keep telling you about. Not going to happen. Why? Because the US EPA regulates odors from all manufacturing facilities and fines those that violate those regulations. The County Department of Health has the power to shut down any facility that creates a hazard to the community.

      Another reason it’s not going to happen is that the workers will smell the odor long before any of the citizens in the community will. Those odors have to be incinerated per EPA requirements. Of course Earth Justice knows this. If they let the citizens know the truth, many would bail. Fear is what holds their group together. See the below link.

      https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-10/documents/2003-vt-section-5-241.pdf

      Bill your questioning the land and water assumes there will be waste to be concerned about. The hydrogenation process has a small carbon footprint. The process will not create a need to store any waste or ship “leftovers” to a landfill, thus it will have no concern regarding nearby water or land. If an environmental impact study is needed, IDEM and the US EPA will facilitate the study and require whatever processes are needed to keep the environment and citizens of Spencer county safe. That is what they do.

      The water used by the plant and returned to the earth will be heavily monitored by IDEM and the US EPA, just as they monitor AEP and AK Steel. Violations can result in fines or plant closure.

      Of course China and Russia have less restrictive pollution requirement then the United States, so it would be impossible to compare the Riverview Energy Project against similar facilities in Russia or China but rest assured, The United States has some of the most restrictive air and water pollution standards in the world. The World Health Organization ranks the United States in the top two for lowest particulate matter emission in the industrialized world. We have IDEM, our political leaders and the US EPA to thank for those rankings.

      http://gamapserver.who.int/gho/interactive_charts/phe/oap_exposure/atlas.html

    • Scott Newton December 19, 2018 at 8:13 pm #

      Daryl,

      I don’t have a dog in this fight, but your confidence in the EPA, as it is presently constituted, is woefully misplaced. Scott Pruitt has been flushed down the drain (he of the $43K armored phone booth and 14 law suits against the EPA), only to be replaced by Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry who shares Pruitt’s zeal to undo environmental regulations.

      At present, there are approximately 76 environmental rules targeted for extinction by the administration in an effort to ease the burden on the fossil fuel industry. While other countries in the world march forward, our order are “about face and back to the nineteenth century.”

      If you’re looking for oversight and a real check on possible environmental violations, look locally and then to the state. Forget the EPA.

      • Daryl Hensley December 20, 2018 at 12:35 pm #

        Scott, I’m sure the citizens of Mississippi were pleased with the $2.5M penalty Chevron had to pay. Or how about $25M paid by Crude Logistics for violations. Or perhaps:

        Wood Group PSN Inc. $9.5M
        International Petroleum Corporation of Delaware (IPC) $3.5M
        Duke Energy $1.2M
        KMTEX, KTX, Crosby and Ramsey $3.5M

        Of course all of these penalties started at the local level (oversite) and progressed to the state level and the enforcement arm of the US EPA prosecutes the cases.

        Though Trump has made some changes at the EPA, He has not authorized any changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). He has allowed for new technologies to move forward as long as they don’t operate outside of the NAAQS standards.

        Scott you baffle me as a liberal, you vote for more government control and authority but you seem to not trust the control you give government via the election process. The US EPA has been one of the best agencies for making the United States the cleanest country on earth. In fact under Trump, the air quality in the United States is .9% cleaner then the year before. The US is 25% cleaner than Europe and is 3 times more clean than Mexico.

        https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/chevron-settlement-information-sheet

        https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/ngl-crude-logistics-llc-clean-air-act-settlement

        https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/2017-major-criminal-cases

        https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/pdf/2017_co2analysis.pdf

        Daryl Hensley, Jasper IN

        • Scott Newton December 20, 2018 at 8:45 pm #

          Daryl,

          You make the common misconception that all liberals are sort of pale socialists, in the American conception of that term. Not so.There are liberals in the mode of John Stuart Mill, who value personal liberty, but acknowledge that government plays an important role in the social compact that maintains a civil society. Without government we return to a world of Hobbesian chaos and cruelty.

          But true liberals don’t worship at the altar of big government. Do you think liberals favored big government overthrowing Mossadegh, Arbenz, Lumumba, Allende, and Diem? Do you think liberals favor the present administration’s plan to prevent states from seeking waivers regarding work requirements for recipients of SNAP benefits?

          I’ve visited the EPA web page. Most of those adjudications were initiated during the Obama administration. I don’t need my intuition to lead me to the conclusion that the administration is intent on neutering, weakening, or otherwise defanging the EPA. Scott Pruitt and others have explicitly made that clear. The exodus of professional staff from the agency only confirm it.

          I agree. The EPA has been a highly effective agency since the 1970’s. It’s reputation, however, will suffer in the years ahead.

  6. cindy December 18, 2018 at 4:08 pm #

    Concerned Citizen

    Seems to me that if this is such a healthy moneymaker that cities would fight to get the project. I don’t see that happening. Makes me wonder what terrible pollutants will actually come from this.

    • Daryl Hensley December 18, 2018 at 10:40 pm #

      Cindy the answer to your question is simple. When a bank robber was asked why he robs banks? His answer was “that’s where the money is.”

      Riverview Energy is in SW Indiana because that is where the coal is. A 500 year supply of coal is located in SW Indiana.

      https://igws.indiana.edu/Coal/

      Daryl Hensley, Jasper IN

  7. Jeff December 27, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

    Daryl,
    Willie Sutton, the bank robber, said the answer, “because that’s where the money is” was never said by him. It was made up by a reporter named Mitch Ohnstad for comical value.