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COLUMBIANA COUNTY Residents discuss Cogentrix



Published: Fri, August 9, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some questioned the adequacy of pollution-monitoring procedures the state requires.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- Area residents raised objections and questions regarding a proposal to build a $600 million power plant in Center Township.

About two dozen people attended a public hearing held Thursday at Lisbon Junior-Senior High School.

The event was hosted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which is reviewing an application from Cogentrix Energy Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., for a permit to release emissions from the plant into the air.

The OEPA will review the comments from Thursday's hearing along with other data and is expected to rule on the permit in coming months.

Speaking out

Several plant opponents spoke at the hearing.

"Nobody in here trusts this company," said Celeste Baronzzi of Teegarden Road. Her home is about a mile from the plant site along St. Jacob-Logtown Road.

Baronzzi expressed fears about harmful emissions from the natural gas-fired plant and alleged that there are discrepancies in technical information Cogentrix provided to the Ohio Power Siting Board and the OEPA.

Earlier this year, the siting board granted Cogentrix permission to build the plant, which is one of several approvals the company will need before beginning construction.

David Ocamb of New Waterford argued that Cogentrix's air permit application contains significant technical flaws. He also said he's worried about the company's plans to have backup generators powered by diesel engines.

"Diesel fuel is very toxic," he argued.

Roger James Jr., who lives less than a mile from the plant site called Cogentrix carpetbaggers and claimed the company has misrepresented itself.

"Pull the plug on Cogentrix operating here," James urged the OEPA.

Gary Mattix of Leetonia wondered whether the OEPA is out to protect the environment or promote business.

Q & amp;A session

During a question-and-answer session before the hearing, audience members expressed doubt whether the pollution monitoring and inspection of the plant will be sufficient to protect the environment and those living near the facility.

OEPA representatives responded that the monitoring and inspection system in place is the best the state can muster given its resources.

They said any pollution complaints regarding the plant would be swiftly dealt with. Violations of clean air standards may result in fines and possible shutdown, OEPA representatives said.

There's some question whether the plant will ever be built.

Earlier this week, a Cogentrix spokesman said a poor general economy and a weak power market is prompting the company to put construction plans on hold.

The company is still proceeding with the permit process, however.

No Cogentrix representatives appeared to have attended Thursday's hearing.

In the past, the company has said it diligently obeys environmental regulations and would be a good corporate citizen.




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