Is the Bioethanol Proposal Legal? Expert Opinion Sought

By Mike Lednovich

Fernandina Beach City Attorney Tammi Bach says she is seeking an outside legal opinion on whether RYAM’s proposed bioethanol processing plant does or does not violate restrictions of the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.

Bach told city commissioners that the law firm of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole + Berman, experts in land use, will render an opinion in about 30 days.

Last November, Rayonier Advanced Materials (RYAM) of Fernandina Beach submitted an application to the state for a bioethanol production plant to be located at its current cellulose production complex.

According to the “air construction permit application” submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, RYAM is seeking to operate the plant on its current site along with two shift process tanks, one off-spec tank and one product storage tank that would have internal floating roofs. The application states the plant would produce 7.5 million gallons of bioethanol for sale each year. The product storage tank can hold 39,900 gallons.

“There are members of our community that believe that an ethanol plant is a chemical manufacturing processing plant that is not permitted under our heavy industrial uses,” Bach said. “My opinion is that it’s more complicated than just having ethanol there. I think it’s best to send this out, have it written, researched and cited and all that. It will take hours of time and it will be good having someone outside the area weigh in on that based on what our code says.”

RYAM has scheduled a public information forum at its 10 Gum St. facility for people to learn more about its proposed bioethanol process addition to its facility. The time is Wednesday, March 6, 4-7 p.m. in the Large Engineering Conference Room.

 The City Comprehensive Plan, policy 1.07.12, which deals with industrial zoning, says in part: “… chemical or petroleum manufacturing or refining … shall be prohibited.”  RYAM’s complex is zoned industrial, therefore coming under the provisions of this policy.

There are numerous provisions in the Land Development Code prohibiting storing “liquids of hazardous materials.” Bioethanol is considered to be more volatile than other fuels like petroleum.

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lucyp74
Noble Member
lucyp74(@lucyp74)
1 month ago

If Rayonier doesn’t get its way to put this bioethanol plant there, then what will all the mill employees do for work??? Obviously this has been their plan all along—they have been liquidating their timber property faster than you can put a for sale sign on it. Rayonier USED to be good stewards for our community. Since Wildlight, I no longer feel that way. I think they’re out to rape and pillage this area, AND the people to the fullest extent possible. 🙁

Robert
Member
Robert(@rsherrettainternational-investors-com)
1 month ago

Good for you Ms. Bach. As I said before, this isn’t the 1970’s but 2023. How can anyone consider building an industrial chemical facility in the midst of a residential neighborhood without considering health, safety and environmental impacts? A full Impact Statement should be required along with an emergency plan in the event of a major storm, flood or accident that could cause a spill.

Robert
Member
Robert(@rsherrettainternational-investors-com)
1 month ago

And to the reporters/editors of the F.B.OBSERVER: Keep up the good work on keeping citizens informed!

taina
Trusted Member
taina(@taina)
1 month ago

Our comprehensive plan clearly states that Chemical Processing Facilities are not allowed in our City. The United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies ethanol plants as “Chemical Process Plants”. Seems very strait forward to anyone who can read that this is not allowed in our city. If any lawyer has a different “interpretation” on this I’ll be extremely interested to understand the logic.
Why did the City of Fernandina Beach disallow chemical plants in our Comprehensive Plan in the first place? Because we knew that chemical processing facilities in no way add to citizens safety, the environment, water quality, home values, homeowner insurance costs or enjoyment of the island.
I personally don’t want 7.5 million gallons of jet fuel produced every year less than 10 football fields from my home, and less than 6 football fields from the nearest homes.
I would suggest that the lignins be transferred to a very rural area and an ethanol plant be built far away from homes, communities, and definitely not placed in the middle of a city.

Concerned-Citizen
Trusted Member
Concerned-Citizen(@concerned-citizen)
1 month ago

Why do we need a City Attorney if everything is outsourced. A paralegal can prepare ordinances.

Rich Polk
Member
Rich Polk(@rich-polk)
1 month ago

I don’t want this dangerous chemical plant anywhere near me my family or my children. Please disapprove this plan.

EdButera
EdButera(@edbutera)
1 month ago

The City Comprehensive Plan prohibits chemical processing and refining. Still, once again, our city leaders are willing to allow a corporation and an out-of-country owner to determine what happens in our city.

Rayonier will use 4 to 5 gallons of water for every gallon of ethanol produced. That will amount to over 30 million gallons of effluent into the Amelia River, negatively affecting animal life, plant life, and recreation.

According to the FDEP, only one air quality test will be required when the plant goes online. After that, none are required.

There will be additional trucks on 200 and 8th Street, noise pollution and light pollution, and the possibility of a chemical explosion within city limits where people live.

EdButera
EdButera(@edbutera)
1 month ago

“One dead, four injured in explosion at Wood River ethanol plant.” 4/17/23, Wood River NB.
“Cause of Ringneck Ethanol Plant explosion still unknown.” 7/10/23, Onida SD
“Several injured in blast at ethanol biofuel plant in Illinois.” 9/21/23, Decatur IL

What do these all have in common? They’re all located in rural areas, yet property was destroyed and people died.

Why is this plant even under consideration? Is it the wish of city leaders to set the stage for a Lahaina-Town-type conflagration here in Fernandina Beach?

EdButera
EdButera(@edbutera)
1 month ago

One more thing. The ethanol will need to be transported off the island, so everyone will be affected when something like this happens:

“A blaze still burns after a train carrying highly flammable ethanol derailed in Minnesota. Crews are assessing three more cars carrying ethanol…. forcing a mandatory evacuation of the city.”
3/30/23, Raymond MN

EdButera
EdButera(@edbutera)
1 month ago
Reply to  EdButera

I referenced a train derailment when Rayonier will be adding hundreds of tanker trucks to 8th street and Rt 200, my mistake. To extinguish an ethanol fire requires a special alcohol-resistant foam. And we thought logging truck accidents were a problem.

Cmoss56
Noble Member
Cmoss56(@cmoss56)
1 month ago

There is a session being held today from 4-7 at RYAM – it’s labeled an open house – does anyone here know if it has a scheduled speech or such or just a come and see rollling discussion?
Do I need to be there at 4?

Thanks