BATH TOWNSHIP, Greene County — Bath Township and Renergy, Inc., parent company of Dovetail Bioenergy in Bath Township, are working on a compromise on several issues and resident concerns surrounding the biodigester facility.
In emails obtained by this newspaper, County Commissioner Rick Perales has been in contact with Renergy, saying the company is “willing to discuss” ways to mitigate citizen concerns, including odor, the possibility of additional sludge lagoons, and wear and tear done to Herr Road.
If reached, the agreement would stipulate an engineered lid on the existing ponds, and a Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) for Herr Road. Renergy would also have to enter into a legal agreement stating it will no longer seek a permit to build additional sludge lagoons.
In exchange, the trustees would withdraw their appeal of Greene County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Buckwalter’s May decision, which was in favor of Renergy in an agricultural zoning violation case. Buckwalter ruled that Dovetail was a public utility, and therefore exempt from township zoning regulations. The decision follows a similar one in Morrow County, where a judge ruled that Dovetail’s sister facility, Emerald Bioenergy, was a public utility.
The Bath Township trustees have voted to appeal that decision, however, it is unlikely that they will win the appeal, according to Perales.
“The vast majority of cases that go to appeals are not overturned,” he said. “If they win it and it’s overturned, that’s terrific. If they lose, they could go to the Supreme Court, but the likelihood that the Supreme Court will entertain it is very small.”
For some residents, the terms don’t go far enough. In an email, Bath Biodigester Concerned Citizens group founding member Lorie Venable told Renergy officials that the group is “moving forward with any and all measures to stop [Renergy’s] operations” in both Greene and Morrow counties.
Ultimately, however, the decision to compromise with Renergy lies with the citizens, Perales said.
“The people of Bath Township need to talk to the trustees and let them know if the deal has merit or not,” Perales said. “If they don’t take this deal, then they need to have their eyes open as they go forward. To ask for anything more is not realistic, and I think is selling the residents short.”
Details of the agreement are currently being ironed out, but Trustees Steve Ross and Kassie Lester are expected to vote on whether or not to enter into the agreement Wednesday, June 16.
“We’re going to do the best for residents that are in the area. The three major issues are the odor, the safety, and the potential lagoons,” Lester said. “We might have to make some concessions with this deal, but it will not be one of those.”
One of Lester’s stipulations is the inclusion of an emergency management plan, she said.
“The EPA has not supplied that,” Lester said. “We need to know what the emergency plans are, and it needs to be in writing.”
Trustee Tom Pitstick has recused himself from the issue because the biodigester operates on his farm. Renergy declined to comment on the settlement discussion but thanked Perales for “reaching out to find a win-win solution.”
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.