Panel to discuss benefits and disadvantages of tires-to-energy plant

By Alexandra Jaffe

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Allegheny’s Center for Economic and Environmental Development will host a panel to discuss the economic and environmental impacts of a proposed tires-to-energy plant in the Meadville area.

Crawford Renewable Energy, LLC, proposed the plant in early April of last year. Although the plans are moving forward, with CRE waiting on approval of an air quality permit, the construction of the plant is not definite, and officials are still taking community comments on the issue.

The panel aims to “shar[e] factual, scientific information that is connected to this project” with the Meadville and Allegheny communities, said CEED Director and Professor of Art Amara Geffen in an e-mail.

The panel will include three professionals with backgrounds in environmental science or protection, including two professors and an environmental policy attorney.

Despite Geffen’s assertions that the panel will offer a balanced point-of-view, Greg Rubino, president of CRE, declined to participate in the discussion and expressed his worry that the panel lacked balance.

“I don’t think that the panel really has much informative value for the community because it is not a balanced panel made up of people who favor this type of project […] and understand the tremendous technology behind it,” he said. “It seems to me that the panel is actually made up of people who have already come out against the project, so we don’t understand how that’s really going to be informative for the public.”

However, panel moderator and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette environmental reporter David Templeton said that he will attempt to steer the conversation towards both the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed plant.

“Everyone I’ve spoken with, and the meetings we’ve had on this, indicates that there’s a lot of expertise and a lot of objectivity on this panel,” he said. “We’re going to try to accurately weigh the risks but also acknowledge the benefits [of the plant].”

According to the CRE website, the proposed energy plant would provide Meadville with 90 megawatts of energy and, during construction, create 250 union jobs. The site claims that the energy produced by the plant would power up to 75,000 homes in the area.

However, scientists and community members have expressed concerns about the environmental impact of such a site. Although there hasn’t been much scientific research done on the impact of burning tires to create energy, as such operations are relatively rare in the U.S., the plant could produce carcinogenic air pollutants as well as heavy metals throughout the area water supply.

These issues will be addressed next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Ford Memorial Chapel, first with statements from the panelists and a question and answer session to follow.