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Gas pains: Ethanol another NIMBY
November 21st, 2006 09:51 PM
Can Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell overcome the skepticism of local residents who don't want an ethanol plant built near their homes.Back when the price of gas was more than $3 a gallon this summer, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell grabbed headlines by announcing the state would 900 million gallons of domestically-produced fuel into the state's gasoline and diesel supplies over the next decade.

But Rendell's dream of making Pennsylvania a national leader in green renewable energy may have just hit a snag - and for a very old reason.

It's a NIMBY, which stands for Not In My Back Yard.

Few folks, if anybody, really want a giant alcohol still to be built near their homes even if it may mean less reliance on foreign oil.

"I think this kind of thing belongs out in Iowa," Darlene Bodek, a resident of Wright Township, Luzerne County, said Monday at a public meeting on a proposed ethanol manufacturing plant in the Crestwood Industrial Park near Wilkes-Barre, according to the Times Leader.

That's despite the fact that the land Northeast Ethanol wants to build on has been a Superfund environmental disaster site since Foster Wheeler Energy Corp. closed its plant there in 1984.

The groundwater in the area is contaminated with trichloroethylene or TCE, an industrial solvent that was used and carelessly discarded for decades until it was discovered to be a carcinogen.

Northeast Ethanol plans to pump up the polluted water, clean it and then use it in its distilling process to produce as much as 50 million gallons of ethanol a year while creating 50 jobs that pay $15 to $20 an hour.

Still, that wasn't enough to convince Bodek and 50 other concerned residents who voiced their opposition to the project.

Having worked in that area for several years, I know where those folks are coming from.

Nearly a century ago, demand for a different type of fuel - coal - left much of their region a polluted shambles to this day while mine owners made fortunes. There were no environmental laws back then and no requirements to restore the land when the mining was done.

Given that history, can you blame them for being more than a little skeptical?
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