BATH TOWNSHIP — A group of concerned citizens has asked the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for input regarding the biodigester in Bath Township.
A petition signed by 290 residents requests public hearings on “any and all facilities and/or permits being issued new or re-issued for the following facilities or entities associated with: Renergy, Inc.; Dovetail Energy, LLC; Emerald BioEnergy, LLC; Renergy Soil and Water, LLC; Ringler Livestock, LLC; Ringler Energy, LLC; Ringler Feedlots, LLC; Pitstick Family Farms, LLC; H2-oh-yeah; and Steamtown.”
“As citizens, we believe we should have a voice on what facilities come into our communities and the unintended consequences of such entities,” Lorie Venable — spokesperson for Bath Biodigester Concerned Citizens, Ohio Biosolids/Biodigester Coalition, and Ohio citizens — said in an email.
The controversial biodigester on Herr Road — owned by Dovetail Energy, LLC and operated by Renergy, Inc., — has been the subject of several lawsuits mostly regarding alleged emission of ammonia without proper permits. Built in 2013, the biodigester uses a sealed anaerobic digestion tank to produce methane that is used to generate electricity. According to one lawsuit, the plant’s operations result in the production of waste sludge, called digestate, that is stored “initially in a concrete tank and ultimately land applied by area farms as fertilizer.”
The citizen petition was sent to Laurie Stevenson, Ohio EPA director; Laura Factor, Ohio EPA assistant director; Michael Regan, US EPA administrator; Debra Shore, US EPA regional administrator; and David Yost, Ohio attorney general; among other state and EPA personnel and lawyers.
It cites Ohio Revised Code section 3745.01, which gives the EPA director the option to “provide such methods of administration, appoint such personnel, make such reports, and take such other action as may be necessary to comply with the requirements of the federal laws and regulations pertaining to chemical emergency planning, community right-to-know, and toxic chemical release reporting; air and water pollution control; public water supply; water resource planning; and waste disposal and treatment.”
“We, the undersigned, request the Director of the Ohio Environmental Agency (OEPA) establish open public forums for each new permitting and/or re-issue of established permitting so that the public can be informed and pose questions on the facilities that are affecting our everyday lives,” the petition said.
The petition also references more than 500 complaints made to the OEPA since 2016 as well as emails, phone calls, and an in-person meeting, all geared toward the citizens being a “part of the solution to ensure we all can exist in harmony. We hope that Renergy/Dovetail/Emerald and their entities will do the right thing and be the good neighbor that they have claimed to be and make our living environment better for everyone concerned.”
It also alleges that the OEPA has not adhered to its purpose, “which according to your own website ‘The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is a state agency whose goal is to protect the environment and public health by ensuring compliance with environmental laws.’ Groups across Ohio have asked OEPA time and time again to adhere to your own mission statement to no avail. OEPA’s canned statement of ‘we attempt to bring them into compliance’ has not been effective.”
In April, the City of Fairborn and Bath Township filed a federal lawsuit against Renergy and Dovetail and the Ohio and United States environmental protection agencies alleging that Renergy and Dovetail violated the federal Clean Air Act by allowing the biodigester to emit significant quantities of ammonia without applying for and obtaining an air pollution permit, without controlling the ammonia emissions with the best available technology, and without following the mandates of Ohio’s air toxics law. Ammonia is an air toxic contaminant in Ohio.
The USEPA and Ohio EPA were named as defendants for allegedly failing to enforce the Clean Air Act and Ohio’s air pollution laws by allowing Renergy and Dovetail to operate a digestate lagoon without first obtaining an air permit that includes air toxics protections and best available technology requirements.
That lawsuit came not long after one filed by Ohio Attorney General David Yost, who alleged that Renergy and Dovetail were allowing the organic waste processing facility to emit ammonia without a permit.
Yost’s lawsuit claims that the plant initially accepted only agricultural waste, but sometime between it’s opening and February 2018, “the company started introducing non-agricultural organic wastes into its process.” While pollutant permits for some aspects of the operations have been obtained, the lawsuit says “the company failed to obtain the required permit for the digestate storage tank at the time it started introducing non-agricultural organic wastes into the process and thus became subject to regulation.”
The state’s lawsuit was settled shortly after it was filed and according to a consent order and final judgment entry filed in Greene County Common Pleas court, Renergy Inc., and Dovetail Energy, LLC had 60 days to submit a “Permit to Install and Operate” application for biodigester’s lagoon where digestate from the biodigester process is stored. They had 180 days (or longer if approved by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) to complete installation and compliance of all measures in the PTIO.
In May, the legal counsel for Renergy and Dovetail asked the United States District Court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the City of Fairborn and Bath Township because the state lawsuit was already filed.
Dina Pierce, media coordinator for the Ohio EPA northwest and southwest districts, confirmed receipt of the petition and said the EPA will consider it.
“At a minimum, Ohio EPA follows Ohio’s laws and rules regarding public participation in our permitting processes,” she said.
The Daily Herald reached out to Renergy for comment but had not heard back by press time.