BATH TOWNSHIP — The Bath Township Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) will be holding a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 at the township office, 1006 Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road, which is sparking a lot of attention from township residents.
The BZA will review and decide on two appeals of a cease and desist order the township issued in September against Dovetail Energy, LLC bioenergy facility, which is located on 14.7 acres of Township Trustee Tom Pitstick’s farm at 1156 Herr Road. The company and Pitstick are asking the BZA to set aside the cease and desist order issued by Fayette County Prosecutor Jess C. Weade, who is acting as special legal counsel to the township. In an order dated Sept. 6, 2019, Weade asserted that Dovetail Energy, a subsidiary of Renergy Inc., is in violation of the current zoning ordinance.
The Herr Road facility, which the Quasar Energy Group constructed in 2013, changes sewage sludge from municipal wastewater treatment plants, biowaste from commercial food manufacturers, and hog manure into methane and carbon dioxide during an anaerobic digesting process. The methane gas is then converted into electricity, and the remaining byproduct is applied to local crops that farmers use to feed livestock.
“The property appears to be in violation of the Bath Township zoning Resolution Section 105.2 which states, ‘No structure or lot shall be used for any purpose other than that which is permitted in the district in which such structure or lot is located.’ The property is zoned agricultural, and the current use of the existing biodigester facility has been determined to be an industrial use,” Weade stated in the order.
The township gave Dovetail Energy 30 days, upon receipt of the notice, to correct the violation or face legal action. However, the cease and desist process was halted on Sept. 26 when attorneys representing Dovetail Energy filed appeals with Township Zoning Inspector Jim Miller. Since the appeal, the company has continued daily operations.
Township resident Jacob Fulton, who resides at 4382 Byron Road, has also filed a petition of intervention in the matter with the township BZA. Fulton will present his claims against Dovetail Energy and the Pitstick couple before the board during the public hearing as well.
“At the public hearing, Mr. Fulton will have the role of a private citizen who will be allowed to speak in support or object to requests of the appeals. His comments will be entered into the record as would any evidence or documents he wishes to submit supporting his views,” Miller said. “That is how it will proceed unless someone tells me that a petition of intervention is somehow different from citizens’ comments.”
In July 2019, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a permit-to-install allowing Dovetail Energy, LLC to build two biosolids storage ponds on farmland adjacent to Fulton’s farm where he resides with his wife Sarah and their three children. Combined, the open-air ponds would be able to store up to 32 million gallons of Class B biosolids following the anaerobic digesting process.
According to the Ohio EPA, the biosolids would be stored in the ponds until they would be land applied on farm fields. However, Fulton claims the company has been over applying the biosolids to local crops, and he believes that company officials have no intentions of land applying any biosolids once they are stored in the two ponds. He is also concerned about his family’s water supply because the biodigester is located so close to the sole source aquifer. In fact, the two proposed ponds would be situated over top of the aquifer.
Fulton is seeking sanctions against the Ohio EPA and Dovetail Energy and is asking the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC) to revoke Dovetail’s permit-to-install the two storage ponds. The Fulton couple and Bath Township Trustees John Martin and Steve Ross appealed the Ohio EPA’s decision to ERAC in August, as well as Ron and Kassie Lester and 43 township residents listed on their appeal.
Fulton filed a 42-page motion on Jan. 3, which stated that Dovetail provided discovery responses, which were false, evasive, and deficient as to call into question the fairness of the entire permitting and appeal process for the permit in question. ERAC has scheduled a hearing regarding the appeals in June.
Fulton, township resident Benjamin (Matt) Jones, and Kassie Lester, who now sits on the Bath Township Board of Trustees, have voiced their opinions about the Ohio EPA’s demonstrated partiality and favoritism when dealing with issues concerning Renergy Inc.
“I believe Ohio EPA officials have displayed unprofessional conduct when dealing with representative of Renergy. The agency is supposed to enforce environmental standards by monitoring companies like Renergy and the Dovetail Energy facility. However, I have copies of texts and e-mails between EPA officials and Renergy representatives that prove otherwise,” Lester said. “Some of those communications between the Ohio EPA and Dovetail were even designated ‘confidential’ at times.”
“This agency that is supposed to be regulating Dovetail Energy should not be giving them help on talking points,” said Fulton.
“From the beginning it has appear to us that the Ohio EPA has facilitated the needs of Renergy and the Dovetail Energy facility. The EPA has met frequently with a lobbyist for Renergy as well,” Jones said. “What does the EPA have to do with a lobbyist, except be influence? They should refuse to meet with any special interest.”
Jones said he would be attending the BZA public hearing on Thursday and addressing the board.
“I have a number of complaints with this facility,” said Jones.
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.