Trial next week for appeal of Riverview air permit


DALE — Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life will take another step next week in the group’s quest to stop Riverview Energy from building a $2.5 billion coal-to-diesel plant in Dale.

A trial for the advocacy group’s appeal to Riverview Energy’s air quality permit that was approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will start on Tuesday and run through Thursday in Indianapolis. The appeal was filed through the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication. The trial will proceed by video due to COVID-19.

“It all comes down to the health of our communities,” said SWICQL President Mary Hess of the reason for the group’s appeal.

Riverview Energy announced in early 2018 plans to build a $2.5 billion coal-to-diesel plant in Dale that would be the first direct coal-hydrogenation project in the U.S. The process, Riverview has said, would make ultra-low diesel fuel, but would not burn or gasify coal. The plant would use 1.6 million tons of coal to produce 4.8 million barrels of clean diesel and 2.5 million barrels of Naphtha each year.

Dale annexed more than 500 acres into the north side of town, and approved industrial zoning for the project.

SWICQL quickly formed opposing the project, concerned about potentially “dangerous air pollution,” among other things. Valley Watch, an organization created to “protect the public health and environment of the lower Ohio Valley,” also joined the charge.

IDEM, the agency tasked with deciding whether to issue Riverview Energy an air permit for the proposed project, approved a 1,200-page draft air permit for the project in October 2018. The agency’s analysis concluded that “no significant impacts are expected from the proposed facility.”

IDEM then held a public hearing on the draft permit that December, where more than 400 people gathered to hear attendees voice their comments verbally and on the record to IDEM. The agency also gathered written comments on the air permit.

IDEM issued the air permit in June 2019, and SWICQL appealed it the next month, saying it is “deeply flawed.”

“Riverview Energy must not be allowed to site this dangerous project near vulnerable communities, including an elementary school and nursing home,” an Earthjustice attorney representing SWICQL said in a press release at that time.

Both parties, Riverview and the advocacy group, gave sworn testimonies and a judge ruled SWICQL and Valley Watch have “standing” in the case. The trial was originally planned for late June of this year, but was pushed to this week.

A request for a statement from Riverview on the impending trial was not responded to by press time.

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