No Ethanol Wins State Review of Draft Air Quality Permit

By Mike Lednovich

The Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) has granted a petition by No Ethanol Fernandina to conduct a hearing on the validity of a draft air quality permit for Rayonier Advanced Materials (RYAM) plans to operate a bioethanol plant in the city.

DOAH has not set a date for the hearing.

Last March, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) issued RYAM a draft air quality permit to operate a bioethanol plant at its facility on Gum Street that would produce 7.5 million gallons of bioethanol a year.

But in April, Tom Budd of No Ethanol Fernandina filed a petition requesting an administrative hearing be conducted stating, “This project did not meet these applicable statutes and regulations required for preconstruction review.”

Specifically, the petition questions the accuracy of air emissions data submitted by RYAM in its air quality permit application to FDEP.

“Comparing the applicant’s (RYAM) self-reported “actual” Annual Emission Reports to the DEP for the past three years (2021, 2022, 2023), to the “projected” emissions shown in their air permit application, the air emissions will exceed the threshold of three important toxic pollutants NOx, SO2 and CO that should have triggered PSD review,” the petition stated.

PSD stands for Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) of Air Quality. The PSD program is a regulatory framework established under the Clean Air Act. Its purpose is to prevent significant deterioration of air quality in areas that currently meet or exceed national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).

Under the PSD program, any proposed new major source of air pollution or modification to an existing major source in an area meeting NAAQS must undergo a thorough review process to ensure that it will not cause significant deterioration of air quality. The review includes an assessment of the potential impact on air quality, visibility, and public health.

Budd’s petition states, “Petitioners dispute the data included in the air construction permit as incomplete and inaccurate and allege that the projected actual emissions of key pollutants exceed the allowable limits set by applicable regulations and trigger Potential Significant Deterioration (PSD) review.”

The petition was filed by No Ethanol Fernandina attorney Ralf Brookes based in Cape Coral, Florida.

“The outcome we’re seeking is that FDEP denies RYAM the air quality permit for the bioethanol plant,” Budd said.

DOAH’s hearing will not be open to the public.

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Douglas M
Noble Member
Douglas M(@douglasm)
4 days ago

Good news! I’m still scratching my head wondering why the City hasn’t 86’d the idea yet. It’s against the law and an outside firm even gave a ruling that it was illegal! Even that should not have been necessary as our Manager and Attorney should have told the FBCC “they can’t do that” a long time ago.

This one really stinks……and I’m not talking about RYAM.

Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
4 days ago

Wouldn’t a gas scrubber of sufficient size make the compliance threshold achievable.? If we can inject the whole world with synthetic genetic material we can certainly clean up a gas stream can’t we?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrubber

Chris244
Noble Member
Chris244(@chris244)
3 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

It could work for sure as it sounds like a good idea. But I’m no expert in air quality cleaning process. But if, as you say, a simple scrubber could have avoided all this scrutiny, then why wasn’t it proposed to begin with. And, as what has been suggested, why were flawed numbers introduced into the application? The answers, may be simple, I don’t know. But what I do know is, if RYAM truly desired to move forward with their project, then all these “simple” recommendations would have been initially added to the original proposal. I keep hearing they will do this project safely and will adhere to all safety requirements. But with the recent supported scrutiny, one has to question that responsibility. The hearing sounds like a reasonable idea and the right thing to do. Just part of the process. Perhaps we can glean more from the outcome of this hearing.

Last edited 3 days ago by Chris244
Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
3 days ago
Reply to  Chris244

Exactly who is saying flawed numbers were entered into the application? Exactly what numbers are flawed? What Professional Engineer stamped the application?

When an engineer applies his stamp to something he must be extremely careful. Professional engineers are not protected by the “corporate veil.” That means they are personally liable.

It would be helpful to all if those supposed flaws were pinpointed so that we could all judge for ourselves. The engineer of record especially needs to investigate those claims.

Scrubbers are routinely used to clean gas emissions. It is fairly certain that the emission estimates involve gas that has been scrubbed.

mick
Member
mick(@mick)
3 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

This is what the administrative hearing is for. Know also that a hearing didn’t have to be granted by the State on RYAM’s conditional permit status, so that alone says something. The review will require a lawyer and cost over $10,000. This isn’t something one frivolously undertakes with no ground to stand on. It’s a critical issue for all to safeguard the community, protect air and water quality, and stand with the legality of the City’s LDL and the City’s Comprehensive Growth plan. Please visit http://www.noethanolfernandina.com to see what you can do to help. Every bit contributed makes a difference for all of us.

Last edited 3 days ago by mick
mick
Member
mick(@mick)
3 days ago
Reply to  mick

I WAS MISTAKEN. Here’s the correction from our Sunday meeting. The Admin hearing with the State is going to cost us $15-20,000, not just $10,000 as posted above.

mick
Member
mick(@mick)
3 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

A ‘gas scrubber’ won’t lower the risk of explosion/fire. There is a reason the Comprehensive Plan prohibits chemical refineries in the city limits.

mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
3 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Mr. Martin, if you read the RYAM air permit application you will find references to the relevant scrubbers presently in use at that site.

Mark Tomes
Active Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
3 days ago

The first step is to get accurate information, which is one of the primary goals of No Ethanol Fernandina. RYAM has not been forthcoming in the data analyses of the project, nor have they been accurate in the data they’ve presented. We need to get all the facts, and then we can have a robust discussion of its benefits or detriments to the community.

Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
3 days ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

After looking at the picture of a fire at a plant in France that is “quite similar” I am really starting to wonder about a toxic cloud “16 miles” in size. What I saw in that picture didn’t look anything like a cloud. It looked like a plume that was going straight up. Not a good thing for sure, but it looked quite different than a “toxic cloud.” We can suspect the high heat carries the reaction products to a very high altitude where they are dispersed to the point that the concentrations of reaction products are no longer toxic to human health. If you divide the mass of the plume by the mass of the atmosphere you get a number so small it is essentially zero.

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Chris244
Noble Member
Chris244(@chris244)
3 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Unless there’s an inversion which will cause the plume to mushroom. And, quite frankly, your comment pertains to what we can see. There are plenty of toxic substances in that cloud we can’t see. So, to dismiss the potential threat to public health because a person “can’t see” it, is irresponsible.

Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
3 days ago
Reply to  Chris244

The picture shows no cloud. It is the reference to a toxic cloud “16 miles” in size that is frightening the bejesus out of folks.

It is reasonable to suspect that most all of the toxins (seen and unseen) are contained in the plume.

Last edited 3 days ago by Ben Martin
mick
Member
mick(@mick)
3 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

 Ethanol vapors are heavier than air and can travel away from their point of origin. 19-157_Ethanol-Fact-Sheet_Final.pdf (stanford.edu) The proposed building sight is adjacent to the paper mill with stacks of chipped wood and pine tree logs in addition to the paper mill itself.

mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
3 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Mr. Martin, as it has been pointed out earlier, the data is in RYAM’s Off-Site Consequence Analysis. You might want to take the issue with them and ask them what was their purpose.

And by the way, the data is based on a leak at room temperature and not under fire conditions or an explosion. Gases expand significantly at much higher temperatures and pressures. Again, take your issue to RYAM and/or the regulatory agencies if you disagree with their methodology.

Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
2 days ago
Reply to  mmonzon

Mr. Monzon, the point of interest is the projected toxic cloud “16 miles” in size.

The projected volume and mass of a toxic cloud, and the projected area it would cover – in the event of a fire – is not “data.”

It is understood that you got the toxic cloud size estimate from compliance documentation prepared by RYAM for state regulators.

It would be nice if you would post RYAM;s documentation on your website http://www.NoEthanolFernandina.com that shows where the toxic cloud “16 miles” in size is referenced.

If someone wanted to talk about the volume or mass of a cloud, or the area that it covered, that would make sense. But using a linear distance to estimate the size of cloud seems kind of whack.

Did that documentation really refer to a could “16 miles” in size??? Please show us.

No doubt ethanol is a volatile explosive substance. And the reactions involving the raw materials in the event of a a fire are of great concern.

What is also of great concern is the fact that manufacturing has left the United States.

The covID virus didn’t seem any more lethal than the seasonal flu. What was different about it was that it had a fantastic public relations team that promoted widespread fear. And you can’t help but wonder if the same thing is happening here.

Bob
Noble Member
Bob(@bob)
3 days ago

More data is needed. There’s no turning back once this project is started.

mick
Member
mick(@mick)
3 days ago
Reply to  Bob

It’s better to know the facts up front than to remediate an accidental cataclysmic fire/explosion event. There are no shortage of articles on domestic and international ethanol refinery explosions which have seriously injured and killed people. The proposed site has insufficient ‘buffer’ space for homes, schools, and businesses should an accident occur. The area is too densely populated for a chemical refinery.

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