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View from around the state: Concerns about gasification project should be made public

An Oneida Seven Generations Corp. renewable energy project has faced resistance from a few of its neighbors, including some who oppose the proposed gasification plant based on misinformation.

Among the misconceptions are that Schneider National disapproves of the $23 million project, and that dangerous emissions will spew from the waste-to-energy facility, located across from Schneider’s headquarters on Packerland Drive in Ashwaubenon.

“We support the Oneida Seven Generations proposal for their currently proposed location, and that support is contingent upon them getting all the appropriate permits,” Steve Parent, director of corporate facilities at Schneider National, told a member of the Green Bay Press-Gazette editorial board in a phone interview.

Construction of the 70,000-square-foot biomass facility is on hold while Seven Generations awaits approval of an environmental impact assessment from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which the corporation expects to go through, possibly within 30 days.

Corporation officials had secured all the required paperwork to build at the 8.8-acre site when they broke ground on the project last month in the 3100 block of Packerland Drive, but they then agreed to move the operation 700 feet back after Schneider National raised concerns, said Kevin Cornelius, CEO of Seven Generations. That move required the corporation to resubmit its site plans to the federal agency.

A schematic drawing that project officials shared with the newspaper showed that the facility — a 32-foot tall building with no smokestacks — is surrounded on three sides by berms and a wooded area in the back.

Project officials said the facility likely would not be visible to passersby. They said the operation would emit no toxic fumes, strong odors or noise.

“There are no emissions that come from the gasification process,” Cornelius said, explaining that the operation is a closed-loop system with a set of valves that allows garbage through, and keeps air from entering by using light suction. “You can’t have fire with no oxygen,” he added.

Garbage trucks will unload inside the rear of the building and anything that appears toxic will be put back on the truck, according to project officials. The garbage will undergo two shredding processes, and recyclables will be removed; the remaining waste becomes tar and ash, which also will be repurposed, they said. The entire operation is enclosed.

The village of Ashwaubenon is opposed to the site, which is on federal trust land and zoned light industrial by the Oneida Tribe of Indians. Village leaders are concerned about the project causing property values to fall — something Seven Generations denies would happen because of the facility’s state-of-the-art design and construction.

Seven Generations could have done a better job of informing the public, and Cornelius admits as much. He said his corporation plans to hold a Dec. 16 open house at the Ashwaubenon Village Hall to answer questions about the project. We urge everyone with a stake in this issue to attend.

The gasification project appears likely to happen. The best way to prepare for it is to be well informed.

Green Bay Press-Gazette

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