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Spencer County Council puts trust in IDEM, backs Riverview Energy

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By DON STEEN

Staff Writer

 

ROCKPORT – The last Spencer County Council meeting of the year Dec. 18 was also the last front, however small, in the ongoing controversy regarding a proposed coal-to-diesel plant in Dale as the board made their final decision on whether to officially support the project via resolution.

The meeting hall was crowded with a number of opponents, and a few supporters, of the proposed Riverview Energy project in Dale. At last month’s meeting, opponents had reiterated a number of their concerns regarding the plant and its potential impact on air quality and life in the area, asking that the council put off a decision on whether to declare support or opposition one way or another until both sides were heard out at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s public hearing earlier this month.

While the commissioners ultimately approved a resolution in support by a vote of 2 to 1 last month, the council ultimately agreed to table the matter.

Council President Blake Bunner thanked the crowd for being present and making their case, but said he would continue to support the plant on the grounds that the county needs economic development and job opportunities to thrive. He tempered this position by emphasizing that he has faith in IDEM and other regulatory agencies, and would in turn support holding Riverview Energy to all its promises as well as the laws protecting the environment.

Mary Hess, speaking for gathered opponents, argued that many county residents lack faith that IDEM will carry out its duties, or adequately evaluate the potential risks relating to the plant.

This attitude was not unanimous on the council, however. Councilman Jack Kroeger questioned the need for the resolution, given that the matter was firmly in IDEM’s arena at that point. He motioned that the resolution in favor of the plant be dismissed on those grounds. However, only he and Councilman Todd Ruxer voted to dismiss the resolution.

In fact, when the time came to vote on the resolution itself, Kroeger supported it, noting that he shared Bunner’s feelings in general but was merely skeptical of the need for the measure. The only vote against the resolution in the end came from Ruxer, who briefly stated that he had been torn on the issue but felt the plant might jeopardize the inviting atmosphere of the rural community and discourage younger residents from returning to the county as he did.