Another wrinkle for ReVenture

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ReVenture. Heard of it? It's the proposed eco-industrial park that will include a hybrid (new + old technology) incinerator and a city-owned waste water treatment plant. If you need to get up to speed, check out "ReVenture Under Review" in the February issue of Charlotte magazine (written by me).

Now, the developers admit the parks' plans are constantly "evolving." For example, in the article linked above, I describe how the company planned to pelletize our waste and add lime to it, a move that woulda, shoulda, coulda helped lessen air pollution concerns. Welp. Between the time the article went to the printers and the time it hit stands, that long-touted plan was scrapped.

Another long-touted plan on the chopping block? Mecklenburg County's role in the air quality permitting process. Keep in mind, the American Lung Association says our city's air is the 10th worst in the country.

To be clear, Don Willard, director of Meckleburg County's Air Quality, told me this morning, "There is no permit. There is no application. When we have an application, we can tell people what the facts are."

But, here's the deal: While the county is authorized by the state to issue air quality permits, they're not allowed to issue them for municipal waste incinerators, "if this is, in fact, a municipal waste incinerator," said Willard, and "it appears that's what this will be."

(A public relations note: Team ReVenture — that's what they call themselves — doesn't like us to use the word "incinerator.")

So, if the county can't permit the plant, the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources will get the job. This concerns Bill Gupton, of chair of the Central Piedmont Sierra Club. He feels the move will weaken the county's role in the process and that "Mecklenburg County citizens will lose the ability to review and approve the air quality permit." Further, he said, "If this is the case, then everything we've been told goes out the window."

"With yesterday's announcement that ReVenture's main facility will be permitted as a municipal waste incinerator, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the state DENR rather than Meck County air quality, one of the developer's critical assurances has become an empty promise," said Shannon Binns of Sustain Charlotte. "We have been told repeatedly that this will be one of the most heavily scrutinized air pollution permits in the history of the state because it must pass both county and state review, and our elected officials have supported it with this as one of their reasons, yet local decision-making authority has suddenly been lost. Unfortunately, this is only the latest example of an assurance from the ReVenture team that has gone up in smoke and the public should be very concerned."

To back up their case, both men point to DENR's recent permit for Duke Energy's coal ash ponds which doesn't limit the amount of substances like arsenic that can be drained into our river (aka our drinking water), despite the fact that citizens clearly wanted those substances limited.

When asked if the county's voice will be weakened in the permitting process if DENR's in charge, Willard said, "I wouldn't put it that strongly. We will play a role, but we won't be able to dictate what they will or won't do."

Diana Keys, a spokesperson of DENR, said, "We obviously can't comment on a permit we don't have." She also said she'd have someone call me back later today to discuss the state's permitting process, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Tom McKittrick, the man behind ReVenture, said, "We are indifferent who administers the permit; that will be decided between Mecklenburg County and the State."

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

"With yesterday's announcement that ReVenture's main facility will be permitted as a municipal waste incinerator, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the state DENR rather than Meck County air quality, one of the developer's critical assurances has become an empty promise," said Shannon Binns of Sustain Charlotte. "We have been told repeatedly that this will be one of the most heavily scrutinized air pollution permits in the history of the state because it must pass both county and state review, and our elected officials have supported it with this as one of their reasons, yet local decision-making authority has suddenly been lost. Unfortunately, this is only the latest example of an assurance from the ReVenture team that has gone up in smoke and the public should be very concerned."

To back up their case, both men point to DENR's recent permit for Duke Energy's coal ash ponds which doesn't limit the amount of substances like arsenic that can be drained into our river (aka our drinking water), despite the fact that citizens clearly wanted those substances limited.

When asked if the county's voice will be weakened in the permitting process if DENR's in charge, Willard said, "I wouldn't put it that strongly. We will play a role, but we won't be able to dictate what they will or won't do."

Diana Keys, a spokesperson of DENR, said, "We obviously can't comment on a permit we don't have." She also said she'd have someone call me back later today to discuss the state's permitting process, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Tom McKittrick, the man behind ReVenture, said, "We are indifferent who administers the permit; that will be decided between Mecklenburg County and the State."

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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