The legal drama continues over a planned $2 billion coal-to-diesel facility in Spencer County. The Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication has ruled in favor of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s extension of an air permit for Delaware-based Riverview Energy Corp.
The extension was challenged by Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life Inc. and Valley Watch Inc., which have been seeking to block the initial approval of the permit, as well as its extension. The groups claim IDEM did not have the authority to issue the extension and the reasoning for Riverview seeking the extension was not sufficient.
Riverview requested the permit extension last year it says primarily due to the the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the continued litigation surrounding the project was also listed as a factor. IDEM awarded the extension of the permit, which now runs through 2022 and was challenged by the groups.
Chief Environmental Law Judge Mary Davidsen ruled the petitioners, SICQL and Valley Watch, “have failed to provide sufficient evidence to create a general issue of material fact in this manner.”
“This case had no merit, and the court saw that,” Greg Merle, president of Riverview Energy, said in a news release. “We had confidence in our argument for extension, and put that before IDEM through the proper process — and IDEM, as it has done consistently, applied Indiana law and federal standing guidance. The court’s decision is another win for the people of Spencer County and the region, and we’re continuing forward to bring this project and the jobs and opportunity that come with it to this community.”
The coal-to-diesel facility project in the Spencer County town of Dale was first announced in 2018. Riverview Energy says the plant will be the first direct coal-hydrogenation refinery in the U.S., capable of producing 4.8 million barrels of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, as well as 2.5 million barrels of naptha.
In September 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied a petition to block the air permit issued by IDEM in 2019. Three months later, the OEA also denied a petition to block the issuance of the permit. The OEA’s decision was challenged the following month in an appeal filed in Marion County Superior Court, which has not yet been resolved.
Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life issued the following statement Monday to Inside INdiana Business:
Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life (SWICQL) stand by our challenge to IDEM’s extension of Riverview’s coal-to-diesel refinery construction permit in Dale until 2022.
Riverview offered no valid reason why the original permit should be extended for another 18 months; in fact, they blamed COVID and SWICQL for delaying the start of construction. Riverview’s original permit granted them full ability to begin construction in the first 18 months of their permit, and construction projects throughout the country continued during COVID. In other words, their excuses for requesting an extension were weak at best.
However, IDEM rubber-stamped another 18-month extension, and the OEA rubber-stamped IDEM’s approval. The OEA ruled that ongoing litigation was sufficient to keep Riverview from building its refinery, and at the same time denied our appeal to stop the permit extension for failing to provide public notice. The OEA essentially ruled that it will decide against citizens groups like ours until there is no option left to oppose refinery builders, at which time IDEM will continue to give industries like Riverview a free pass to do as they like in Indiana.
SWICQL along with Valley Watch and our representatives from Earthjustice will continue to oppose IDEM’s decision to grant Riverview’s permit to construct this ridiculous coal-to-diesel refinery close to our homes. We are presently appealing the OEA’s ruling on the permit in Marion County Superior Court.
You can view the latest ruling from the OEA in full in the document below: