Local News

Ethanol Plant Opposition May Run Out of Gas

Posted April 2, 2007 1:04 p.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2007 6:11 p.m. EDT

— Cumberland County residents who don't want a new ethanol plant built nearby learned Monday that their ability to lobby commissioners to block the plant is seriously hampered.

About 100 opponents piled into a Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, hoping to convince commissioners to deny $875,000 in tax incentives which, in turn, would prevent E85 from building north of Fayetteville. But commissioners read a letter from E85 in which the company said it is no longer seeking tax relief.

"It may be their way of getting around a public denial," plant opponent Del Crawshaw said.

Dennis Freeman, who owns land near the site of the proposed plant, said he and other residents weren't told about the company's plans to build the until the last minute.

"Everything that has been going on with this thing has been hushed under the table," Freeman said. "I think it's a done deal."

County commissioners said E85 already has its air quality permit. The company still needs to buy the land and receive its building permit.

E85 wants to educate area residents in hopes of getting them on board with plans for the plant, company spokeswoman Audrey Whaley said. Public information sessions would include experts to discuss various aspects of the ethanol production process and community impacts like traffic and odor concerns, environmental effects and safety issues, she said.

"We are concentrating on the first phase of the project, which is informing the community of our plans, processes and safety measures," Whaley said. "Once we implement our multi-week educational campaign, we’ll set a groundbreaking date to occur before end of year."

Some residents are considering legal action to see if there is anything they can do to prevent the construction of the ethanol plant.

"My children live on this side of town, and my grandchildren. It's very emotional for me," plant opponent Melba McLemore said.

Kenneth Edge, chairman of the board of commissioners, said he opposes the proposed plant but said there's little the board can do and residents will have to battle on their own.

"They can voice their opinion to E85. It's in their ballpark now," Edge said. "They can pursue legal and political action. That's a fight many communities have done before. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."