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ADEM to hold public hearing Tuesday on rendering plant proposal

A rendering plant converts packing house waste, kitchen grease and livestock carcasses into industrial fats and oils.

An Alabama Department of Environment Management public hearing on an Alabama Power Company Gadsden Steam Plant on Nov. 10, 2020.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced that it is hosting a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at Gadsden’s Downtown Civic Center on the Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation’s proposed animal rendering plant facility.

The proposed rendering plant will be on the south side of the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport property.

While the site is in the Gadsden city limits it is near many residents in Rainbow City. A number of Rainbow City residents have expressed their opposition to having a rendering plant so close to a population center.

A rendering plant converts packing house waste, kitchen grease and livestock carcasses into industrial fats and oils (such as tallow for soap) and various other products including fertilizer. Pilgrim’s Pride is a major employer in Etowah and the surrounding counties.

Former Republican State Rep. Mack Butler is part of a group of 23 residents who have filed a lawsuit attempting to block the zoning of the new facility. Butler owns several properties and a home as close as two miles to the proposed rendering site.

“That is not something we want in our community,” Butler said.

“Nobody want it here,” Butler said. “We should not put anything that is non-aviation related at the airport. I want to see the airport grow.”

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Butler said that the rendering plant would be near the Alabama National Guard base that employs 200 people.

“We have got a huge investment in this community,” Butler said. “We do need jobs, but those are jobs that typically have a really high turnover.”

One local chicken farmer, who is contracted with Pilgrim’s Pride, told the Alabama Political Reporter that the rendering plant is essential for the industry in the area.

Members of the Gadsden City Council and Etowah County Commission were flown to Iowa to tour a modern rendering plant. Officials say that a modern rendering plant does not have the odor and air quality issues that the previous generation of rendering plants may have had.

Citizens who are in favor of or who are opposed to the proposed Steele Station Road rendering plant can submit their comments to ADEM by emailing [email protected] or mailing letters to P. O. Box 301463-1463, Montgomery, AL 36110-2400. Be sure to include the permit numbers in reference to your comments: #307-0051-X001 & 307-0051-X002.

For more details on registering to speak at the public hearing as well as the COVID-19 accommodations go here. 

ADEM Permits and Services Division Chief Russell A. Kelly said in a statement that ADEM is being asked to issue Air Permits for the construction of three gas-fired boilers, an air washer, a regenerative thermal oxidizer, three packed-bed scrubbers, and one diesel above-ground storage tank and ancillary equipment. This was previously noticed on Nov. 2, 2020.

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Pursuant to applicable regulations, ADEM is allowing the public to have a 15-day public comment period for the proposed permits. Any interested person can submit written comments on the permit applications or draft permits. ADEM is holding the public hearing after it received sufficient requests to warrant a public hearing.

Kelly said that the purpose of the public hearing will be for interested parties to make oral and written comments for the public hearing record. Those wishing to make oral comments at the public hearing are also encouraged to submit those comments in writing.

Comments must address the conditions of the proposed permit(s); the Department’s adherence to the applicable environmental laws, rules, and regulations in development of the proposed permit(s); or issues that have an impact on the applicant’s ability to meet applicable environmental laws, rules, and regulations.

In order to affect the final permit decisions, comments must offer technically substantial information that is applicable to the proposed permit(s).

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and in order to conduct an orderly hearing while adhering to the recommended social distancing precautions, ADEM will call only one registered speaker into the hearing room at a time to provide their testimony to department representatives. There will not be a general audience in the hearing room.

Each registered speaker will be allowed no more than five minutes to present their testimony. Speakers are encouraged to provide lengthy statements in writing and to present a summary of their statements during their testimony. The Department will not allow registered speakers to enter the hearing room until they are called to give their testimony.

The Department will require that speakers exit the hearing location after giving their testimony. The Department is not able to live stream the hearing or allow remote participation; however, the hearing proceedings will be video recorded and placed on the Department’s YouTube channel within approximately 24 hours of the conclusion of the hearing.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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