Advocacy groups plan second appeal in Dale coal-to-diesel plant

January 28, 2021

Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life and Valley Watch have lost their challenge against the air permit for Riverview Energy’s proposed coal-to-diesel plant in Dale and now plan to appeal again.

In July 2019, the groups filed an appeal with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, saying the permit didn’t provide assurance of protection from the plant’s potentially high levels of air pollution. In fact, Riverview didn’t submit the final design for pollution control or the facility itself before the permit was issued in June 2019.

In December 2020, the Office of Environmental Adjudication ruled in favor of IDEM and Riverview saying there was enough information to issue the permit, and a detailed design plan isn’t necessary to determine particulate matter for the coal handling and milling process because these are well-known processes. Also, the adjudication office said the groups didn’t present concrete proof, only theories of what the air emissions could be.

The proposed site of the Riverview Energy coal-to-diesel plant in Dale.

“In the decision of the OEA, we were held to an impossible standard,” said Mary Hess, President of Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life. “The responsibility of proving engineering and technical issues should not fall on the shoulders of community organizations. We will pursue every avenue available to give a voice to those who support us, as we continue to shed light on the fact that Riverview Energy, having had their permit for over 19 months, has yet to break ground.”

Gregory Merle, president of Riverview Energy, said in a statement, “We are pleased with the court’s decision, of course, and had full confidence in the regulatory diligence that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management applied in vetting and issuing our air permit.”

Merle said this is a victory for the people of Spencer County and the region.

If built, this would be first coal-to-diesel plant built in the U.S. and would bring $2.5 billion to the state.

The proposed coal-to-diesel plant in Dale would look similar to this current coal-to-liquid plant in the northwest China.

“The plant will have a significantly lower carbon foot-print than other technologies, and nothing will go to waste,” Merle said. “All the plant’s products will be marketable — and with stricter federal regulations in auto fuel efficiency and now in global marine shipping, the market is prime for this innovative process that uses the U.S’s vast coal resources in a highly clean process.”

However, the John Blair, President of Valley Watch, doesn’t believe the plant would be good for the area.

“Riverview Energy is a scam that has woefully divided the citizens of Spencer County,” he said. “It is time Spencer County officials step up, like those in Vermillion County, and tell the sponsors they are no longer welcome to spread their myths. If they cannot perform, it is time for them to just go away. We can do better.”

Last week, the groups decided to appeal OEA’s decision on the basis of holding the groups to an impossible standard of proof.

“That standard violates the law and significantly curtails the public’s ability to participate in IDEM’s permitting decisions,” said Lauren Piette, attorney with environmental law firm Earthjustice.

Piette said she expects the court to set a schedule for the parties to brief the issues in the case.

“We are confident the court will carefully review the legal issues in our case and ensure that the OEA complies with the law,” said Piette.

Advocacy groups plan second appeal in Dale coal-to-diesel plant