Ethanol plant opponents plot strategy at rally

August 05, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Opponents of a proposed $80 million ethanol plant in Greene Township received an update Thursday evening on their fight to prevent construction of the facility.

Citizens for a Quality Environment held the No Ethanol Distillery in Franklin County picnic at the AMVETS Post 224 pavilion in Chambersburg.

Attending the picnic to lend moral support were two women from Lancaster County, Pa., who recently waged and won a similar battle against a plant proposed by the same group of investors.


Barbara May, who lives in Millersville, Pa., about 10 miles from the former proposed site of the distillery, addressed the group briefly.

"We fought hard to get it out of Conoy Township," she said. "I'm sorry they came up here. Don't give up."

Penn-Mar Ethanol LLC of York, Pa., wanted to put the distillery in "a beautiful spot along the Susquehanna River," she said. "It would have been destroyed forever. It was despicable."

Penn-Mar Ethanol plans to invest $80 million in a plant in the Cumberland Valley Business Park to convert corn to ethanol for a fuel additive. The plant would convert approximately 20 million bushels of corn into 60 million gallons of ethanol, according to Penn-Mar figures. The plant also would produce carbon dioxide and distiller's grain - what is left of the corn after fermentation - as livestock feed.

Chambersburg resident DeEtta Antoun, the director of Citizens for a Quality Environment, told the 150 to 200 people in attendance that the Governor Pinchot Sierra Club in Harrisburg, Pa., which was active in the Lancaster County fight, has pledged its support to the Franklin County group.

"They will be going to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for us and we will have access to their environmental attorney," she said.

Frederic G. Antoun Jr., legal counsel for Citizens for a Quality Environment, said Penn-Mar applied for variances on the 45-foot height limitation for 30 buildings and received all of them. He said Menno Haven, a nearby retirement community, wanted a 2-foot height variance for housing for the elderly and was denied.

"You can draw your own conclusions ...," he said.

Greene Township is under a court-ordered stay and cannot review plans for the proposed plant or do anything with the 55-acre tract in the Cumberland Valley Business Park until the judge makes a decision, Antoun said.

"It's up in the air and in limbo," he said. "We have a very good case."

"We could win flat out," he added. "But typically, these cycles go on forever. It could go back to the township, there'd be months of hearings and we'd appeal again."

The ethanol movement was started as a farm subsidy program, Antoun said. The proposed distillery would use 800,000 gallons of water per day, enough for 12,900 people. The plant would create 35 jobs, Penn-Mar officials have said.

About 1,600 people have signed petitions against the ethanol distillery, organizers of the 300-member group said.

The group states that if approved, the Penn-Mar Ethanol distillery could bring air and noise pollution, noxious odors, fire/explosion hazards, excessive truck traffic and real estate devaluation that is associated with other ethanol refineries/distilleries across the United States.

Willie Davis of Chambersburg encouraged members to "write to the newspapers and let people know (the use of ethanol) isn't going to lower the price of gas."

"We need elected officials who can do the right thing even when nobody's looking," Jere Perry of Orrstown, Pa., said to applause.

Greene Township residents Terry and Julie O'Hara came to the meeting "for information about what's going on," Terry O'Hara said. "It's going to affect our lives."

Donna Wetzel said she is not against progress, but the proposed distillery "isn't going to lower our taxes, help kids or help the elderly. Let them put it out west with the farmers. I want to keep my clean air. Since December 2004, we can't burn anything (in Greene Township), but they want to put this in."

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