DeKalb County says it is the greenest county in America. And to help bolster that claim, they have approved a green energy facility that will have little or no pollution, and can generate electricity for 7,000 homes. At least that is the sell that Green Energy Partners has told DeKalb County. Residents in that part of the county are not impressed. They had been fighting to keep the facility from being built, but their pleas fell on deaf ears as DeKalb commissioners voted unanimously to approve the plant.
Green Energy Partners is not the only group to attempt to open a biomass facilty in DeKalb. In 2009 Southeastern Renewable Energy asked the county to rezone some land on Briarwood Road near I-85 and North Druid Hills Road so that thye could build essentially the same type of facilty. In fact if you read the SLUP for both, the purpose is exactly the same with the exception of who is requesting, and where it is located. Here is the stated purpose of each:
Application of Patrick Ejike to request a Special Land Use Permit to operate a utility generation facility (Biomass Renewable
Energy Facility) within the M-2 (Industrial) zoning district. The property is located on the east side of Rogers Lake Road,
approximately 446 feet south of Lithonia Industrial Boulevard at 1744 and 1770 Rogers Lake Road. The property has approximately 483
feet of frontage along Rogers Lake Road and contains 21.12 acres
Southeastern Renewable Energy
Application of Raine Cotton to request a Special Land Use Permit to operate a utility generation facility (Biomass Renewable
Energy Facility) within the M-2 zoning district. The property is located on the southwest side of Briarwood Road (vicinity of Georgia Power Easment)approximately 880 northwest of Interstate 85 (vacant land, no address). The property has approximately 150
feet of frontage on Briarwood Road and contains 3.16 acres
So what made the Green Energy application so much more plausible than the SRE application? After all, the planning department denied the SRE application based on several issues including “..anticipated significant impacts on water quality, air quality, noise impacts and transportation impacts.” Yet they recommended referral for the Green Energy application. Commissioners repeatedly deferred the SRE application from 2009 until April of 2010 when the application was finally withdrawn. So here are two facilities that use similar technologies to produce energy, yet one is considered a health hazard while the other is given the go ahead to operate. I am also wary of the timing of this entire thing. In April of 2010, DeKalb commissioners entertained the idea of this plant from Green Energy. A week later SRE’s application was withdrawn. In July of the same year, the commission voted to sell the very wood chips Green Energy says it will use in it’s facility for five dollars a ton. And now they have approved the facility in southeast DeKalb. If I lived within a half mile of this thing, I would definitely want to know more about how this whole thing wound it’s way through the county leadership.
After reading this article by Eric Stirgus of the AJC, I have to wonder how they could rate this as mostly true. It seems to me that the statement is true, period. If you are not familiar with PolitiFact, it is a series where the AJC fact checks statements by various people. They give them a rating of true, mostly true, half true, barely true, false, and Pants on Fire (liar liar). Vernon already has a pants on fire rating for a statement he made about transit and Hank Johnson. This one though seems a bit off base. Here is the statement they were analyzing –
“I have a record on the environment of creating green energy by capturing methane gas at our landfills and selling it to Georgia Power and they in return selling it back as green energy — taking trash and turning it into cash,
So what is the problem with this statement. They almost admitted that the program was making money with this statement:
And how much has DeKalb collected from the program? Walton said $3.9 million thus far. DeKalb projects it will collect nearly $1.1 million this year and slightly more in 2011.
So let me get this straight, the county has made 3.9 mil so far will grab another 1.1 mil this year and more than 1 million next year. If my math is correct, that is nearly Six million dollars. The entire cost of of the facility, excluding maintenance, has been covered in 4 years. If it continues at this pace, it will be a money maker in the next couple of years, maintenance included. Sorry AJC, but me smells some bias.
BTW, this is no way in support of the Jones campaign, just wanted to give credit where credit is due.
If you have driven along Ward Lake Road , you will notice that the county has fenced in a large portion of land on the southside of the road. The fencing has blocked access to several properties, as well as Ward Lake. It has been a while since I was out in that part of the county, but I do not remember the lake itself being fenced in. I also noticed that the county has fenced in a piece of property along Linecrest road. All of the fenced in areas are now county property. It really begs the question; What is the county up to? Well I talked to a few people who live in the area, and the all told me that the county was going to drain Ward Lake. None could give me a reason why, but they all said they heard the info from county workers who put the fence up. I asked one guy who has a business in the area, and he echoed the same thing. So made a few calls to see what I could find out. I called the Sanitation Department first. The passed me to the Seminole Landfill office. She in turn told me to call a guy by the name of Jim Herak. after explaining to him what I have explained to you above, Mr Herak asked me who I was working with. I told him I was a concerned citizen who writes a blog. He then told me I would have to talk with a Billy Malone. Well I called Mr. Malone and talked with his Executive Assistant. She told me she would have to take a message and Mr. Malone would call me back. So after talking with 4 people, I had nada. I decided to call the office of Lee May. The landfill and surrounding property falls within his district. I talked with a guy named Edmond Richardson. Mr Richardson explained to me that the county had purchased the land in order to provide a larger buffer for the landfill, and for traffic control reasons. he told me the county wanted to realign Ward lake Road for better traffic flow. He then said he was reading from an e-mail sent to him about Ward Lake and access to it. he said the e-mail stated that Ward Lake would have public access in the future. he also said that the areas that the county has purchased would be used as topsoil for Seminole. He then stated that the county was not going to expand the landfill. Our conversation ended there. Just as I started to write this post, I got a call from Mr. Malone in the sanitation department. It was 6:30 Friday evening I was really surprised that he called back so soon. Mr. Malone confirmed much of what Mr. Richardson told me with some additional details. Ward Lake will be drained and the soil in the lake will be moved to the landfill down the road. During the soil removal process, the lake will be made deeper and wider. What is about a 10 acre lake today will be expanded to 20 acres. After the sanitation department has finished with the topsoil project, they plan on returning the lake and surrounding land to the Parks and Recreation department. At that point it will become a county lake with access to the public. all of this will take two years or more. Right now, the sanitation department has no permits to start draining and digging. As for the properties that the county purchased on Linecrest road, Mr. Malone said they would be used as a buffer for the landfill. In the end more land around the landfill will be county owned, but the landfill itself will remain in its current boundaries.