Scrap tires-to-energy plant opposition tops Youngstown City Council agenda
A resolution opposing plans to open a scrap tire-to-energy plant in Youngstown tops the agenda of next week’s Youngstown City Council meeting.
When the full council meets on Wednesday, members are scheduled to consider the resolution “strongly” opposing the issuance of a permit by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that would allow SOBE Energy Solutions to turn waste tires into thermal energy at a downtown facility.
Youngstown's law director Jeff Limbian told 21 News this resolution doesn't hold actionable power, but that it's a way for city council to voice to the public how council members feel about the operations.
Characterizing the technology as “untested and dangerous”, the resolution claims that the plant would have a long-term “disastrous” environmental impact in Youngstown.
According to the company’s website, Sobe provides a clean, safe, and environmentally friendly repurposing of waste, reducing landfill usage.
The City Council’s Environmental Committee has already approved a similar resolution, hoping to get the EPA’s attention about opposition to granting a permit to Sobe.
Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian announced earlier that the city hired an expert to help formulate a response if Sobe seeks a zoning permit.
Public Works Director Chuck Shasho has said the property is a mixed-use community zone, which means SOBE legally cannot place a waste-to-energy plant in the area.
The resolution states that the pyrolysis technology to be used by SOBE has no demonstrated track record of safety and reliability. Adding that advocates for the technology don’t have sufficient data to prove that the process is safe in terms of toxic emissions, dangerous spills, fire, and the risk of explosion.
The proposed resolution makes note of an explosion in May 2021 at the Brightmark Energy plastic pyrolysis plant in Ashley, Indiana that the council says resulted in 700-degree vapors emitted from a broken valve, causing fires, oil spills, plastic dust in the air, and smoke, allegedly subjecting employees and the community to health and safety issues.
However, the Ashely, Indiana facility is not directly comparable to what will be built in Youngstown. The Indiana Brightmark facility is not a tire chip-to-energy facility like what is planned for Youngstown. Also, the facility recycles plastics into oil for new plastic products and uses a different proprietary pyrolysis system for its facility.
The legislation also cites reports that the plant would allegedly release particulate emissions of oxides, nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, furans, and other pollutants, further claiming that the technology poses risks to the lives of workers, firefighters, and the community.
The council is also concerned that Sobe may be permitted to self-monitor its safety and emissions. “History has shown that self-monitoring of industries operating with chemical use and chemical byproducts is an unacceptable and dangerous approach to a community's safety,” according to the resolution.
Another issue raised by opponents of the facility is plans to regularly deliver tire pellets for the plant, calling it a “nightmare scenario” in Youngstown's Central Business District.
The resolution claims that containment of a disaster would be “impossible”, adding that discharges could contaminate the community’s water supply.
The proposal concludes that the plant would never be permitted near a suburban community.
Those behind SOBE, including the company's CEO have repeatedly countered the concerns, stating that the operations are safe, and will provide environmental and financial benefits to the area and that the plant will demonstrate that.
21 News has reached out to SOBE for a response to the resolution.
Editor's note: The story has been updated to clarify that the Ashley, Indiana, pyrolysis facility cited by the city council in the resolution now reflects the difference between the planned plant for Youngstown and the facility in Ashley, Indiana.