STATUS: In progress, with opposition
OPPOSITION: Sierra Club, Natural Resource Defense Council
BACKGROUND: Baard Energy plans to develop a coal-to-liquids plant in Wellsville, Ohio at an estimated cost of $6 billion. The facility is designed to capture and ultimately sequester at least 85% of all carbon dioxide produced, and will produce synthetic jet fuel, diesel fuel and other feedstocks. It is estimated that 2,500 jobs would be created during the peak construction period, plus 200 full-time jobs at the plant and about 750 coal-mining jobs. The plant will cover approximately 600 acres.
Project opponents have filed three separate legal actions to stop the project. In August 2008, Ohio EPA issued a final National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. In September Sierra Club and NRDC appealed to Ohio’s Environmental Review Appeals Commission claiming Ohio EPA failed to set sufficiently stringent discharge limits for numerous pollutants, unlawfully exempted coal pile runoff discharges from permit limits for three years, and added new sections to the final permit that were not included in the draft permit. This appeal is pending.
In November 2008, Ohio EPA issued the final permit-to-install/PSD permit for the facility. In December Sierra Club and NRDC appealed to the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission claiming the permit was deficient because Ohio EPA failed to include any analysis or control of carbon dioxide emissions from the plant, to accurately analyze or impose emission limits for hazardous air pollutants and to analyze impacts to the State's general air quality from the proposed plant. In October 2009, Ohio EPA issued a modified version of the appealed PTI/air permit to include case-by-case Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) limits to control the emission of hazardous air pollutants. This appeal is pending and a hearing is scheduled for February 2011.
In January 2009, Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a federal lawsuit challenging a wetlands fill permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. The suit alleged the agency neglected some of the plants most significant environmental impacts, including air pollutants and carbon dioxide impact on human health and welfare, and failed to accurately balance the project's harms against the alleged benefits. The U.S. District Court ruled against the opponents in March 2010, and they appealed to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal. This appeal is pending.
Additionally, NRDC filed a Freedom of Information Action against DOE seeking financial information to use against the project developer.
Although the opponents have yet to prevail in any of their litigation efforts, the delay caused by their actions appears to be having a significant economic impact on the project. For example, the litigation caused the developer to abandon its effort to secure a U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee for the project, DOE stated that the lawsuits would be part of the "risk evaluation" and could affect financing costs and timeliness, meaning pending lawsuits would have to be settled before the company could obtain loan guarantee funds. Reports suggest the litigation delay is causing the developer substantial cash flow problems, although it appears that funding has been secured to complete the land purchase.
Construction is planned to commence in 2011.
LAST UPDATED: November 30, 2010