"Air pollution is all our problem," declared one of the speakers at a town hall Friday aimed at rallying against a proposed waste-to-energy plant in downtown Youngstown.

Two weeks since the disaster in East Palestine, air pollution is something most everyone is paying closer attention to. The group Sustainable Youngstown hosted more than 50 people at Friday's town hall.

The group, led by HAZMAT specialist and former Youngstown fire battalion chief Sil Caggiano, laid out why they want to stop SOBE Thermal Energy from operating that waste-to-energy plant.

"I've been working with them from the get-go because of the dangers of burning plastics and toxic fumes and gases and things that can happen," said Caggiano.

He explained that a mishap at a plant like the one proposed - known as a pyrolysis plant accident - would release some of the same toxic chemicals that got released during the controlled release in East Palestine last week.

"Yes there won't be the phosgenes and the hydrogen chlorides, but you'll have all those other incomplete combustion products that were actually sitting in the cloud itself," Caggiano said.

But SOBE CEO David Ferro insists that wouldn't be the case.
He called the comparison "apples to vegetables", adding that the process would not use or create hazardous chemicals. Ferro says he understands the concern, but that people simply don't understand the process.

Judging by the crowd at Friday's town hall, though, their minds are made up.

"We don't want this plant to come in," said Lynn Anderson of Sustainable Youngstown.

Ferro told 21 News Friday that he's wrapping up his filing processes with the EPA, and that he's not allowed to install anything on site without its permission. He still is awaiting clearance to install the gasification system the plant would employ.

Sustainable Youngstown said in a news release that Ferro misrepresented his business plan by filing for ownership as a heating and cooling company, not as an industrial plant. Ferro told 21 News that "SOBE Thermal Energy Systems" was a requirement due to the place of incorporation, and that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has known his intention "since day one".

Ferro says he'll be on a conference call with the Oak Hill Collaborative next week to discuss his plans and the progress of the site so far.