This week as the rhetoric around the proposed biomass facility has continued heating up, leading up to last night’s forum, one of the main themes has been that “government should do something.”The editorial continues with the tired old excuse “they can be sued”. Don’t they have insurance for that? If the whole thing goes as bad as some opponents predict, they could be sued for the kind of financial disaster that faces Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
While the Times does not condone or condemn Chairman Paulk’s actions in the commission meeting Tuesday night, understanding the situation may help shed light on the issue. The county is powerless to do anything to stop this power plant. The only governmental entity with any power over the project is the city, and that’s only in the form of the services being extended and the water being sold to the company, as well as the sewage sludge that’s being burned. They too are powerless at this point to stop it.
There is one governmental entity that does have the power. Ah, here it is:
Only the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority has ever really had the ability to stop the biomass plant from being built here. Instead, they chose to purchase the land for the plant and facilitate all the permitting, etc. to assist the company. The Industrial Authority is a quasi-governmental entity with special taxing privileges that can do as the members of the board see fit for the community.It taxes, it spends, it makes decisions “for the community”. That’s government. It needs to be more responsive to the community, as I pointed out in Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.
Then the VDT makes excuses for VLCIA, too:
Citizens’ rights are paramount, but comments should be directed towards the entity that has all the power. And at this point, there’s very little legally the Industrial Authority can do either even if members wanted to halt the project at this time. It would take state legislation to halt this project now.Sure, the VLCIA board is set on moving forward with this plant. But things can change. If they were to seriously consider what their opponents’ experts were saying, instead of refusing to name them and referring to them only as “folks come into the community”, the VLCIA might find all sorts of reasons to halt the plant.
Meanwhile, there is another way, alluded to in the VDT’s previous paragraph:
If the company can get the necessary financing, and can find the suppliers and the customers for the power, the Wiregrass plant will be built.See that first word? “If”. Back at the December 6th VLCIA “Forum” I asked Where’s the wood to come from and who will buy the electricity? They claim to have a wood sourcing study, but they won’t release it. Both Georgia Power and Colquitt EMC have said they won’t buy the power, and VLCIA doesn’t know who will. I asked Brad Lofton about the electricity on January 6th and he still didn’t know. Investors won’t invest if the plant can’t sell its power.
Lack of investors and other concerns caused a biomass plant set for Tallahassee to pull out in January 2009. Public opposition caused Adage to pull a biomass project out of Gretna, in Gadsden County, Florida. And who spoke in Gretna before that? Why look, it’s Dr. William Sammons!
This is still MLK Week. I don’t recall that Martin Luther King gave up just because local government bodies said they couldn’t do anything. Seems to me he was for government being responsive to the citizens.
As the VDT says:
Citizens’ rights are paramountBut only if the citizens insist.