SELC prepares lawsuit against pellet mill

CHARLESTON, SC  –Three environmental groups today sent a notice of intent to sue Jasper Pellets for significant, repeated, and ongoing Clean Air Act violations at its Ridgeland, S.C. wood pellet manufacturing plant.

The notice sent today accuses the company of multiple violations of the Clean Air Act, including operating the facility and installing new manufacturing equipment without proper permits. The required legal notice gives the company a chance to fix the violations before a lawsuit is filed.

“We warned this company two years ago that if they began operating again without a Title V permit, that would be a serious violation,” said Patrick Anderson, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “Unfortunately, we never heard from them, and sure enough they continue to operate illegally without the permit, forcing our hand.”

The Jasper Pellets facility turns raw wood from trees into compressed pellets that are often shipped overseas for power-plant fuel. During that process, the Jasper facility emits more than 100 tons of volatile organic compounds – or VOCs – per year, making it a major source of air pollution under Title V of the Clean Air Act. When combined with sunlight, VOCs produce ozone and smog, along with soot.

However, the facility’s operators have never applied for the proper Title V permit, meaning that it cannot legally operate without facing significant penalties. These permits are crucial to ensure that people living near facilities have access to information about emissions and compliance, among other things.

Ruth Pepin, who lives in the community, said, “If Jasper Pellets obtained the required Title V permit, the publicly available information about air pollution would allow me to make better informed decisions about the use of my property. I would feel safer going outside my house knowing that the facility was complying with air quality laws.”

The Environmental Integrity Project and the Southern Environmental Law Center are representing the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League in the action against the plant, which is located about 75 miles east of Charleston, S.C.

“Compliance with environmental requirements isn’t optional,” said Coastal Conservation League Executive Director Laura Cantral. “We’re committed to making sure that Jasper Pellets doesn’t threaten the health, safety, or quality of life of anyone living near the facility that’s now flagrantly violating the law.”

SELC attorney Heather Hillaker said the goal of the notice is not to shut down the facility, but to make sure it is following the laws for the health of the nearby community.

“Pollution permits are required for a reason, and that is to make sure a facility like Jasper Pellets is following the same rules as other companies and industries, so those living nearby have a full and fair picture of what is coming out of the smokestacks,” Hillaker said. “This is about providing the neighbors with information they are entitled to under the law.”

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