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Biomass plant concerns citizens

McCaskill, Elliott recognized for service

Posted: December 16, 2010 5:10 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2010 5:00 a.m.
Trevor Baratko/C-I

Gary Elliott (right) was honored Tuesday night by Interim Chairman Max Ford (left) and council with a resolution proclaiming his service to Kershaw County. Elliott and outgoing Sheriff Steve McCaskill were given ceremonial black rocking chairs with the Kershaw County seal.

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“We don’t want to end up having a Lee County landfill in our backyard.”

That’s the concern a Lugoff man expressed Tuesday night to Kershaw County Council. Eric Templar, speaking on behalf of several concerned residents, was talking about a proposed biomass fuel plant to be located near Park and Cheraw roads. Templar’s “Lee County” mention was a reference to a waste facility there that has had many citizens displeased with Sumter officials for allowing the company to operate and expand in the county.

Council gave final approval in November for Southeast Renewable Energy LLC (SRE) to buy 30 acres at the county landfill site for the construction of a $50 million wood waste-burning energy plant to produce biomass fuel for Santee Cooper. The plant is expected to generate 20 new jobs during the next five years, according to officials with Kershaw County, the S.C. Department of Commerce and the Central SC Alliance.

Questions posed by Templar included: How would this facility affect property values? What would Southeast be hauling, and what chemicals would it use? Would there be odors and persistent noise? Has the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) been involved in the process?

“What’s going to happen to our property out there?” Templar asked. “We’re not necessarily trying to stop the facility, but it has come about rather quickly. As far as I know, DHEC has not been contacted about anything out there (at the proposed site).”

Kershaw County Economic Development Director Nelson Lindsay had answers for the bulk of Templar’s questions. Lindsay said the county’s planning department had been in contact with DHEC, and that the company’s plans should require only a “minor air permit.”

“They can’t open the facility without an air permit” from DHEC,” Lindsay said, adding that there will be a 20-acre buffer between the facility and surrounding houses.

Water supply for the plant will come either from a well, Cassatt Water Company, or a combination of both.

“Our big question is why did Southeast Renewable Energy pick this site?” Templar asked.

Lindsay said there were essentially two reasons. First, the available product, or “wood basket,” in the surrounding area; and, second, this area is designated as “a new market tax credit area … a federal tax credit the company can utilize.”

In response to Templar’s statement about Lee County, Max Ford, overseeing his final meeting as interim council chairman, said, “I don’t think there’s a soul in this room that wants that kind of thing in our area.”

In other business, council passed two contracts with a 5-0 vote relating to license fees -- one with Progress Energy and another with Fairfield Electric Cooperative. Councilman Stephen Smoak abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest; Councilman Gary Elliott had already left the meeting.

“We have great utilities,” said Lindsay, who went on to explain that utilities are required each year to pay a license fee to the state, or they can use that license fee in their service territory for economic development-related uses.

Progress Energy pledged $100,000 worth of license fees for due diligence work at the Conder Mega Site, while Fairfield agreed to give $260,000 for a potential sewer line to Weylchem and/or an extension of a road to Wateree Executive Park, according to Lindsay.

The Conder Mega Site is a more than 1,400-acre tract of land listed on the S.C. Department of Commerce’s website for possible economic development. It is located between U.S. 1 and I-20 west of U.S. 601.


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