Ethanol Opposition in Full Force at Packed Meeting

By Mike Lednovich

An overflow crowd of concerned Fernandina Beach residents were told Thursday that organized efforts to block Rayonier Advanced Materials (RYAM) plans to operate a bioethanol plant in the city need to continue despite recent legal opinions stating the proposal violates city regulations.

“This point is, this is not over,” Tom Budd of the group No Ethanol Fernandina told the assembled group of about 100 people at the Peck Center auditorium. “The only way we’re going to win this is to stay organized and have the funds to face legal challenges, which will come. It’s highly likely RYAM will threaten to sue the city to allow them to do it (operate a bioethanol plant).”

RYAM was granted an air quality permit by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to proceed with plans for the bioethanol plant that would produce 7.5 million gallons of bioethanol per year at its Fernandina complex.

However, City Attorney Tammi Bach sought an opinion from outside legal land use experts on whether RYAM’s plans were in violation of the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code, which prohibit hazardous materials from being produced and stored in the city.

Last week, the law firm Weiss Serota Helfman Cole + Bierman told the city RYAM’s bioethanol plant proposal should be rejected because it was prohibited by the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.

Budd also provided updates on the efforts to marshal resources to oppose RYAM’s bioethanol efforts.

“We have taken a lot of steps since the last time we were together,” Budd said in a follow-up from a community meeting last March organized by several conservation groups. “We’ve created a Florida non-profit. We established the use officially of the name No Ethanol Fernandina. We have a bank account and we’ve created a website. These moves allow us to legitimize our efforts and raise needed funds with accountability. We think these steps lend credibility to our efforts.”

Among those in attendance was Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross, who detailed the process involved in deciding whether RYAM would be able to proceed with its proposal.

One avenue, Ross said, would be if RYAM requested the city commission to change the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code to allow the bioethanol plant. Ross said that was unlikely, given that three city commission seats are open for election in November.

The other factor in play would be a determination by the city manager that the alternative fuel plant was in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.

“The person who makes the final interpretation of that is not the city commission, not the city attorney and not the city clerk, it’s the city manager,” Ross said. “A week ago I wrote an email to the interim city manager asking him to make an interpretation of whether a bioethanol plan was an allowable use in the city. I’ve not heard back since then.”

Featured speaker chemical expert Medardo Monzon, a Fernandina resident, explained that RYAM’s data on predicted air quality emissions that would be produced by the bioethanol processing plant far exceeded the allowable air emission standards set by the state. He said there is no known data on how such excessive air emissions would impact the vegetation on Amelia Island.

He also presented a worst case scenario of a bioethanol plant disaster as provided by RYAM’s required risk management program report filed with the state. Monzon said according to the report, a chlorine oxide accident would create a toxic cloud of 16 miles, covering the entirety of Amelia Island.

According to experts, chlorine oxides can cause severe irritation to the respiratory system, eyes, and skin upon contact. Inhalation of chlorine oxide vapors can lead to difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain, and even pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs), which can be fatal. Chlorine oxides released into the environment can have harmful effects on ecosystems, including aquatic life. They can contribute to water pollution and disrupt the balance of aquatic ecosystems.

Monzon warned that bioethanol was potentially more explosive than gasoline, with a low flash point, meaning it can ignite easily when exposed to an ignition source such as a spark, flame, or heat. Additionally, bioethanol vapor can form explosive mixtures in air within certain concentration ranges.

“Is this (bioethanol plant) really worth all the risks?” Monzon asked.

Monzon has assisted the No Ethanol Fernandina organization with petitioning the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a hearing to challenge RYAM’s data included in its application for an air quality permit. FDEP has not set a date for the hearing.

No Ethanol Fernandina also announced it is staging a fundraising event on June 15, with all donations committed to financing the group’s legal challenges to RYAM’s continued efforts for the bioethanol plant.

 

 

 

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

It is interesting how well fear mongering works. During the plandemic we saw people driving in their cars by themselves wearing masks.

The calculation that a worse case scenario would create “a toxic cloud of 16 miles” is interesting. Mr. Monzon must have meant 16 square miles.

These types of calculations are known to SWAGs (Sophisticated Wild Ass Guesses). The modeling is almost certainly based on certain assumptions.

How valid are those assumptions? Is it based on the idea that there is absolutely zero wind???

How far away is the edge of this cloud from the source?

Assuming the cloud is a perfect circle and using the formula for the area of a circle the edge of the “cloud” would be 2.26 miles away from the source. And while that is a concern, it is a lot less scary sounding than a toxic cloud “16 miles” in size.

Last edited 12 days ago by Ben Martin
mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
12 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

If you would have attended the town hall meeting, you have learned that the data originated from RYAM itself and they follow rigorous methodology required by regulatory agencies. There was other data shared, but of course, you’ll never know because you chose not to participate.

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

You are correct that the regulatory agencies apply rigorous methodology for data collection. But we are talking about modeling. And the modeling of things like the size of a contaminant cloud involves assumptions.

Are you saying that the worst case scenario of a “16 mile cloud” is an exact calculation?

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

Because is the data is in RYAM’s own Off-Site Consequence Analysis report that is required for facilities that process extremely hazardous materials, you might wish to argue with them and ask them why the scare the community. You should also know that base on RYAM’s OWN annual reports to the FDEP, the air emissions of toxic air pollutants would increase if the bioethanol plant were built. I have yet to find people in the community that are interested in breathing more polluted air. There were many FACT presented last night that. It is common for you to complain in this forum without having facts.

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

The data is not the question. We are talking about a calculation. There was a calculation to determine there would be a “toxic cloud of 16 miles.”

We are still wondering if you meant 16 square miles.

Regardless, any calculation of this sort does involve assumptions. A full presentation would show the calculations and the the assumptions would be listed.

Mark Tomes
Active Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
11 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Mr. Martin, I appreciate your desire for accuracy, and I think you probably answered your own question about the 16 mi.². It is time to move on and address some of the other major problems with the proposed project, of which there are many, and if you had been at the meeting, would be fairly convinced of its ill-advised nature.

Cider
Cider(@cider)
10 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Well, you showed your hand with the plandemic comment, after that what you say is biased beyond acceptance

MyFernandina
Trusted Member
MyFernandina(@myfernandina)
12 days ago

Again, RYAM has operated in the city for many decades.
They know the rules.
They do not waste time and money.
They must have a plan that conforms legally.
They were successful with the lignotech plant, over objections.
When will they let us all in on the secret?

Betsie Huben
Famed Member
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
11 days ago

The distance from RYAM to Southside Elementary School is 1.1 miles. The distance from RYAM to Emma Love Hardee Elementary is 2.6 miles. The distance from RYAM to Fernandina Beach High School is 2.3 miles. These are not “assumptions”. This is not a game of wits and calculators. This is not “modeling”. This is Google mapping. These are facts and the facts are more than a “concern”, Mr. Martin. Our community’s most precious assets, our children and grandchildren, would be sitting under that cloud. Very scary! All the statistical modeling in the world will not change the risk to our children. RYAM has thousands of acres they could locate the operation to that would not put such a risk in proximity of our children & their families. Would it cost more/reduce profitability? Sure. But imagine the cost of a toxic cloud over our school children. #noethanolfernandina

Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
11 days ago
Reply to  Betsie Huben

Betsie, a toxic cloud hovering over school children is a very scary thought indeed. So we should really investigate how it is that a toxic cloud “16 miles” in size was estimated.

Another scary thought is an impoverished America that manufactures nothing as the $ loses it’s status as the world’s reserve currency, and all the school kids are lucky to get a bug burger for lunch.

Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
11 days ago
Reply to  Betsie Huben

I wonder if all the energy of the environmental activists would be better spent on removing Fluoride from drinking water.

https://www.bitchute.com/video/nbMGaQ5D28J1/

dcayscue
Trusted Member
dcayscue(@dcayscue)
11 days ago

It’s a good thing that this worst case scenario of a chlorine leak is confined to the mills and no where else anywhere in the City or County that is closer to residential areas.

mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
11 days ago
Reply to  dcayscue

I believe you are commissioner Ayscue. If so, you were invited to the town hall meeting and decided not to attend. You would have learned relevant facts about the proposed bioethanol project. You are so WRONG! You need to read the Off-site Consequence Analysis submitted by RYAM. The worst case scenarios for EACH of the major hazardous chemicals processed at the site would reach far beyond downtown Fernandina, detrimentally impacting the health of thousands. And the analysis didn’t even contemplate the consequences of a fire caused by a 39,000 gallon tank of flammable ethanol that they intend to build there.

Despite your claims, you’re in no position to understand or assess the chemical hazards at that chemical facility and that’s why we can’t afford you becoming the next Mayor of our city.

dcayscue
Trusted Member
dcayscue(@dcayscue)
11 days ago
Reply to  mmonzon

This will be fun. I am a State Certified Hazardous Materials Technician. I work with and train with the individuals that are responsible for the response to all hazardous materials incidents in the County and City. These individuals train regularly with the mills and know exactly what chemicals are stored and how. I am absolutely confident I and they know more than you ever will about the hazards throughout the entire County and City, including the mills. You simply have no idea what you are talking about and I have confirmed as much. So to your point about chlorine, the most recent documented case of a chlorine leak was not at Crawford Diamond, The Yulee Trade complex or any of the mills; it was at a municipal water treatment plant. Thus my point of chlorine leaks being in places other than the mills.

Now that I have exposed your lack of knowledge with the real life knowledge I have, I’d like to expose the real reason you continue to use this platform to speak. You are quoted many times (Newsleader, events) and even in this response about politics. You are fear mongering to further your political agenda which is why you continue to spout ignorant facts while bringing up politics. It is absolutely despicable you would use people’s fear to push a political agenda.

I don’t need to attend a town hall event (which I was on on shift for anyways) to know what I know and to research and speak with individuals that understand the hazardous materials that are present throughout the County and City. This includes a proposed bioethanol plant that does not conform to the City’s Comp Plan.

Last edited 11 days ago by dcayscue
Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
11 days ago
Reply to  dcayscue

Very well said Mr. Ayscue. More and more the general population is becoming immune to fear mongering. I’ve got to believe the RYAM executives have assessed the risks very carefully. Like all business organizations they don’t want liability for a catastrophe.

mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
11 days ago
Reply to  dcayscue

Commisioner Ayscue,

No it’s not fun, it’s a civic duty to hold those in power accountable for their actions and that’s what I’m doing. You, commissioner Sturgess and Mayor Bean have blocked the public review of this project several times. Contrast your actions with the actions of the City Commission eight years ago when the controversial Lignotech project was announced about 8 years ago. Then, the City Commission held a public forum and invited me to do an independent assessment of the project. That was transparency and openness. I was a strong advocate for that project because of its significant environmental and economic benefits to the community. That’s not the case now.

I’m a 28 year veteran of the chemical and paper industries and worked in large hazardous chemical complexes; you have not. I have advanced degrees in chemistry and was trained to analyze and assess chemical hazards in complex chemical sites. Because of my background and experience, the Florida State Emergency Response Commission appointed me in 2016 to the North East Florida Local Emergency Planning Committee (https://fernandinaobserver.com/general/medardo-monzon-appointed-to-ne-fl-local-emergency-planning-committee-lepc/). I served there with the Fire Chiefs of all the counties in NE Florida. I know about the hazardous chemical inventory in the county and, by the way, the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, makes that information available to the public at large.

Although you’re trained as a Hazardous Materials Technician, there’s nothing in the background that you have shared with the public that would allow you to assess the complex chemistries and reactions that can occur at a site like RYAM’s under a fire. If so, how about pursuing a certification from the Center for Chemical Process Safety? I suspect your application would be rejected due to your inability to meet the requirements.

Finally, between both us of us, the only one with political ambitions is you. Count on me to continue holding you accountable and exposing how your lack of knowledge and experience would be disastrous for our community if you were to become the City’s Mayor.

dcayscue
Trusted Member
dcayscue(@dcayscue)
10 days ago
Reply to  mmonzon

Your spreading of misinformation is extremely more dangerous than any hazardous material in the County or City. Using big words and minor accomplishments from 8 years ago doesn’t make you an expert on what is happening today at the mills. You are playing on the public’s fears to push a political agenda. This is why you continue to bring up the mayoral race. You are far more interested in politics than you are the health and safety of the community which is why you have gravitated towards this platform of a proposed bioethanol plant. You are using what little knowledge you have and can dig up on the internet of our community’s mills to scare people into believing you and trusting you. You are inherently dangerous to the community.

As someone who has and continues to serve the health and welfare of the community, I must act when I see dangers present. I have done my research, with people who know the facts and aren’t relying on minor accomplishments from 8 years ago, to be able to conclude that your misinformation poses a major threat to the health and safety of the citizens. This is why I have chosen to speak out as someone who has the knowledge and experience to present the facts.

mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
10 days ago
Reply to  dcayscue

How can someone spread misinformation when the FACTUAL DATA presented is exactly what RYAM has presented in its annual reports to the FDEP, the Off-site Consequence Analysis, the air permit application for the bioethanol plant and other public documents? You seem to be suggesting that those reports are flawed!

By the way, those reports, particularly the voluminous air permit application, provide detailed data about what happens today at RYAM’s mill and what they forecast will happen if the bioethanol plant were built.

Your statement that I “pose a major threat to the health and safety of our community” is quite laughable. The opposite is true and the community is well aware of all my efforts over more than a decade. I do respect and admire your commitment to protect our community during fires but, unless you have passed general chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, organic chemistry, etc. you are in no position to assess or understand the chemical hazards at that site, particularly under a fire. It’s just not possible regardless of what you say.

You simply don’t know what you don’t know and you’re simply unable to admit it. It’s a very bad trait for people in power.

This exchange has exposed to those who follow this digital newspaper precisely why you are not qualified to our next Mayor.

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

I don’t mean to demean your extensive education but presenting things as if a knowledge of “complex chemistries and reactions” is necessary makes things seem kind of like voodoo. And it makes you seem like some kind of voodoo priest.

In high school we learned that there are reactants and products. It would seem that all the reactions of concern are already known and widely published.

We have all become leery of “experts” who lord some special knowledge over the populace. After all, we are living in the information age.

If you know the stoichiometry and you know the amount of reactants – a mass balance can be performed.

Last edited 9 days ago by Ben Martin
mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
9 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

No, it’s not that simple. Reaction kinetics and thermodynamics play a more important role than quite simple stoichiometry. The RYAM site already processes large amounts of highly reactive chemicals that will react among them under a fire in unpredictable ways, depending on which reactions occur first, depending of the sequence of failure in pipes, pumps and tanks, etc. Typically, those reactions are exothermic so they will accelerate the rate of other primary and secondary reactions nad typically become uncontrollable runaway reactions. This field has received considerable attention in past years due to the number of accidents at chemical plants throughout the country.

Here’s a link to the article of the local newspaper that covered the fire at RYAM’s plant in Tartas, France two years ago prior to them building a bioethanol plant there. That plant is quite similar to the one here.

https://www.sudouest.fr/landes/tartas/tartas-un-incendie-maitrise-a-l-usine-rayonier-advanced-materials-11063398.php

Place a 39,000+ gallon tank of highly flammable ethanol there and if you can predict the chemical reactions and rate of expansion and reach of toxic clouds from the high heat, I’d be happy to organize a meeting where you can share it with all of us.

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

You referenced a toxic cloud “16 miles” in size. That conjures up a mental image of something like the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal India some 40 years ago.

Models of things like contaminant plumes and toxic clouds can be extremely off base. Empirical data beats complicated theories. One picture is worth 1000 words.

You linked an article in your comment above. The article is in French. But it contains a picture of a fire at a plant that is “quite similar.”

I hope everyone will take a look at that picture.

7006452889046283908
Last edited 8 days ago by Ben Martin
mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
8 days ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

I hope that everyone reads the article as well. Your conclusion is so misguided. How far did those fumes go? What was their composition? What do you think would happen with a 39,000 + gallon of highly flammable ethanol tank? It seems that you like this type of “fireworks” for our community in downtown Fernandina Beach. What do you think would happen to our ecotourism economy that drives the well being of our community? Go ahead, champion your cause, I don’t think you’d get much traction.

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

Mr. Monzon, consider the toxic clouds and fires generated by electric cars..

If you wanted to outlaw electric cars at the local level, you would probably have tremendous support.

https://www.bitchute.com/video/7FqrlsryWmyX/

Douglas M
Noble Member
Douglas M(@douglasm)
9 days ago
Reply to  dcayscue

Actually, the entire ensuing exchange between you and Mr. Monzon in this section was “fun”……and enlightening! Reminded me of Gatti-Ward round 9 in their first fight! (Back and forth for the entire round. I was exhausted watching it!).

Both of you had a well informed and serious debate that didn’t deteriorate into personal attacks……yes, it was “fun”.

I did see the video of Mr. Monzon at the last Commission meeting telling everyone to come to the Peck Center meeting…….he gave everyone a chance to voice opposing views there.

Jane Philips Collins
Active Member
Jane Philips Collins(@jane-philips-collins)
11 days ago

“ He said there is no known data on how such excessive air emissions would impact the vegetation on Amelia Island.” In the 1930s through the 1950s, Gus Gerbing had an amazing public garden in Amelia City. Called Gerbings Gardens, it was one of the very first Florida tourist attractions. Rayonier and Container began operations and their air pollution killed his thousands of azaleas and camelias and he was forced to close. The water pollution from the mills decimated the oyster and fishing industries that had been huge on the island up until then. Check out the materials at the Amelia Island Museum of History to verify these facts and read there the story of the fight against pollution in the 1960s and 70s that led to the mills being forced to invent technology to clean up their act. So, there is data to prove air pollution does harm vegetation and water pollution harms anything that lives in the rivers and ocean. If those things are harmed, what about humans? 

mmonzon
mmonzon(@mmonzon)
11 days ago

Sadly, the reporter misquoted what I said. What I stated is that a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) review of air quality would be required and that would trigger also an evaluation of air, water and ground pollution and their impact on vegetation and our fragile environment. I added that such information was not included in RYAM’s air permit application because it mistakenly claims that a PSD review isn’t required.

SnappyClam
SnappyClam(@joesnappyclam-com)
11 days ago

Don’t trust atoms, they make up everything.

Paula M
Noble Member
Paula M(@paula-m)
11 days ago

Common sense applies here..if it walks like a duck etc etc….this plant should not be allowed.

Last edited 11 days ago by Paula M
Ben Martin
Noble Member
Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
6 days ago

While we are on the subject of environmental mania – this article about Wall Street’s planned theft of America’s water and land ought to get everyone concerned – regardless of your political party.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2024/06/no_author/wall-streets-planned-theft-of-americas-lands-and-waters/

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