White Oak Survives Pellet Plant Threat

WINNSBORO (April 8, 2016) – The European energy company that had planned to locate a wood pelleting plant near White Oak may have hit its final snag last month when two key pieces of property it needed were bought up by a local LLC, effectively blocking the proposed plant’s access to railway lines.

AEC Pellet 1 USA, a subsidiary of Spain-based Abengoa, announced its plans to construct the plant last August. Efforts to rezone more than 180 acres on Cason Road brought nearly a dozen White Oak residents and property owners to County Council’s Oct. 12 meeting to protest before second reading of the rezoning ordinance.

The plant would grind lumber into wood pellets, which are used as fuel in European power plants and are marketed as an alternative, renewable energy source. Production of the pellets, however, has come under fire from critics who cite dangerous levels of pollution generated by the plants.

According the company’s permitting and application documents on file with the S.C. Department of health and Environmental Control (DHEC), emissions generated by the facility would include particulate matter (less than 10 micrometers in diameter and less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter), nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP).

The rezoning was put on indefinite hold in December after Abengoa filed for bankruptcy protection in its home country. Last week, the company made a similar filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

While a number of Abengoa’s subsidiaries were included in the U.S. bankruptcy filing, AEC Pellet 1 USA was not among them.

Emily Zucchino, a campaign organizer with the Asheville, N.C. environmental advocacy firm Dogwood Alliance, told The Voice last week that it was doubtful Abengoa would abandon its plans for a wood pelleting plant so easily.

“My belief is that this is a very lucrative business with lots of subsidies going into the industry,” Zucchino said. “This (pellet plant) could be a way for Abengoa to pull themselves out of the hole.”

But with the purchase last month of two pieces of land between the proposed Cason Road site and the railway, the White Oak location is off the table.

KWOB, LLC, registered with the S.C. Secretary of State’s office last December by Columbia attorney J. Derrick Jackson, snatched up the properties on March 15. According to Fairfield County tax records, KWOB paid a total of $480,000 to Thomas W. Peterson, Willene K. Peterson and Keith D. Peterson for 10 acres at 5590 and 56 U.S. Highway 321 North, and approximately 5 acres at 183 Ibis Lane. The total market value for the properties is, according to tax records, $90,000. The records also indicate that the Petersons are members of the KWOB, LLC.

With the White Oak site no longer viable, Zucchino said she was concerned the company might be considering another site in the county. A source within the County government, however, told The Voice this week that AEC Pellet 1 has not approached the County with an alternative site.


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