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It is time for good neighbors to oppose all waste gasification projects

Posted by WEAL on June 12, 2015 at 11:15 PM

opinion piece


Submitted to Green Bay Press Gazette on June 5:


It’s time for good neighbors to oppose all waste gasification projects

By Dean Hoegger and Leah Sue Dodge, Tribe Member, Oneida Tribe of Indians, WI


The recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision against Green Bay’s right to rescind a conditional use permit for a waste gasification surprised many, especially those who were present in January 2013 when Brown County Judge Marc Hammer listed in court numerous misleading and unproven claims made by Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC) representatives and ruled the City rightfully revoked the permit.


Those familiar with the problematic facts surrounding waste gasification versus the rosy picture painted for city officials celebrated the City’s right to hold companies accountable for false and unproven claims.


OSGC is owned by the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, and therefore a ‘corporation’ in name only as the Tribe has no corporate laws. OSGC owns its co-plaintiff, the misnamed Green Bay Renewable Energy, LLC (GBRE), which is registered through a series of LLCs as a tax shelter in the State of Delaware.


OSGC tried to promote waste gasification to four local communities, and each except Green Bay outright rejected OSGC’s proposals due to environmental and other concerns. Some Green Bay City officials were unfamiliar with the science behind environmental & health concerns about OSGC’s false and unproven claims until after the City had already issued a permit.


At the request of area residents, the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin (CWAC) provided evidence showing which OSGC’s statements to the City Council and the Planning Commission in meeting minutes were false or unproven. OSGC’s CEO, Kevin Cornelius, misrepresented the project as a closed looped system having no chemicals, no emissions, no stacks or chimneys, with chemical-free, organic-quality solid waste residues. Yet later EPA and DNR reports said stacks and chimneys were required, that there was no evidence the waste produced would be safe, and that the facility would routinely emit at least 18 hazardous pollutants – including dioxin – into Green Bay’s air . After being provided this factual information, the Green Bay City Council voted 7-5 to rescind the permit.


It’s interesting that in December 2000 the Oneida Business Committee (OBC) passed a Resolution to ask the U.S. State Department to halt the production of dioxin everywhere due to its disproportionally harmful impact on Native Americans. Yet, in 2010 and 2013 the OBC voted to allow and support OSGC building dioxin-emitting waste gasification plants on the Oneida Reservation.


When presented the facts about OSGC’s waste projects by Tribe member Leah Dodge in May 2013, the General Tribal Council (GTC) – made of all Tribe members age 21 & up who attend GTC meetings – voted to prohibit OSGC & its subsidiaries from engaging in waste gasification or ‘plastics-to-oil’ anywhere on the Oneida reservation. After OSGC was caught doing it anyway, GTC voted to dissolve OSGC in December 2013.


Certainly Oneidas who rejected waste gasification on the reservation don’t want family members exposed to those same risks in Green Bay neighborhoods, so who’s really behind OSGC’s lawsuit against the City of Green Bay to pursue waste gasification?


The Oneida Business Committee consists of four officers and five at-large council members who are elected – and can be removed – by GTC. All nine OBC members seem to support OSGC’s waste gasification proposals despite the clear opposition from the voting Tribal membership, and the OBC loaned OSGC & GBRE money to sue the City of Green Bay.


Considering OSGC’s efforts to falsely portray waste gasification as having no harmful environmental impact when it would emit the dioxin the OBC sought to have banned nationwide, Oneida Tribe members and Green Bay taxpayers all deserve an apology from the OBC for funding OSGC’s & GBRE’s appeal of the Circuit Court ’s finding. This has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees all around.


The OBC should also consider the possibility that even more people might join over 1,200 area residents who’ve signed a petition to boycott all Tribal businesses if the waste gasification plant is constructed.


Given other companies’ new efforts to site waste gasification in local areas, it’s time for all good neighbors from the Oneida reservation and the Green Bay area to work together to keep waste gasification out of every northeast Wisconsin neighborhood and focus on real solutions to landfills – including Zero Waste goals – rather than wasting resources fighting over what remain false and unproven claims about the safety and feasibility of waste gasification.


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