Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, on Wednesday announced that he is sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration telling the agency that a rendering plant being proposed at the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport in Gadsden lacks community support.
“I have become convinced this proposed rendering plant does not have the community support of the people who live or work near the proposed site,” said Aderholt. “Therefore, this letter to the FAA is my recommendation that in considering any plans to grant a permit for construction on the airport property, the FAA know all the facts, and the lack of community support involving the rendering plant.”
“Late last year my office was informed of a new economic opportunity for Gadsden and Etowah County and was asked by the city of Gadsden to forward a letter to the FAA requesting a permit be granted for use of the airport property,” Aderholt said. “At that time, neither my staff, nor I were aware that there were any concerns with this proposal, or that in the coming months it would generate such public outcry. But it has become abundantly clear this project has not gained, nor maintained, any level of support from the community. That’s why, in my opinion, the FAA should be very cautious in continuing the permit process for this facility.”
“With any project, it is important that the local community be supportive, and at this time, I am concerned that this project does not have the level of support needed,” Aderholt said.
“I am writing on behalf of State Senator Andrew Jones, State Representative Craig Lipscomb, Advance Etowah, and other concerned citizens of Gadsden, Alabama and Etowah County regarding the proposed development of a Pilgrims Pride Rendering Plant on the property of the North East Alabama Reginal Airport located in Gadsden, AL.,” Aderholt wrote in the letter. “Since I first learned of this project, It has come to my attention that literally thousands of residents of the county, along with numerous elected officials have come out in opposition to the proposed plant due to various concerns such as: health, future economic development in the county, property values, safety at the North East Alabama Regional Airport, and various other issues if the proposed plant is approved and constructed on the property.”
“While I have always believed that it is best if local business and political decisions are made at the local level without Washington telling local officials what is best for a local community, the FAA’s approval is required to move forward on this location, thus making it partly a Federal decision,” Aderholt wrote. “Therefore, since this now is partly a Federal issue, and the fact that an overwhelming number of my constituents have, with a combined voice, made it vocally clear that this facility is not in the best interests of the communities present and future, I believe that the FAA should know all the facts before any decision is made at the Federal level. This plant has become VERY controversial and potentially detrimental to the community.”
“Furtherinore, I’ve been informed that another industry has also contacted the local Economic Development Authority with interest of locating to the airport and it has received the support of the local community,” Aderholt said. “Community support is essential, I believe, for any waivers or permit approvals from the FAA.”
The FAA is involved in this because the city of Gadsden is selling ground at the airport for the rendering plant and the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport is federally regulated and has received federal transportation funding.
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. Rainbow City is opposed to the city of Gadsden plan and many people both inside and outside of the Gadsden City limits have expressed vocal opposition to the proposal.
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.
One local chicken farmer, who is contracted with Pilgrim’s Pride, told APR 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. The mayor and Gadsden City Council officials insist that the area needs jobs and that jobs are more important than residents concerns about any possible odors.
Aderholt is in his 13th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District.