A public hearing was held at the commission chambers at the county courthouse in Pioche on Monday to discuss initiating an ordinance to establish a 318 taxable district in the county to be called a waste-to-energy district.
Commissioners had postponed voting for or against the initiative in October, wanting to gather more information.
Varlin Higbee had said earlier, “a 318 district can be quasi-governmental and pretty powerful, having the ability to use eminent domain, to impose and levy fines, fees and taxes.” He was not in favor of moving forward at the time until more information was available.
The main point would be to create a waste-to-energy district that would clean up, not only the pinyon-juniper problem in the county, and turn it into biomass fuel, but also clean out the municipal solid waste landfill and burn all that material for energy as well.
James VanNatta, chairman and CEO of VanNatta Worldwide and Pegasus Energy, Inc., in Shelbyville, Indiana made a presentation to the board of what his company could do in Lincoln County.
“We have developed an extremely efficient system for destroying a variety of waste materials, with a small footprint, and capable of producing significant amounts of clean energy without putting any harmful emissions into the atmosphere. He said depending on the model of the system, up to eight tons per hour can be processed and almost 190 tons per day.”
VanNatta envisioned such a project would be funded by private investors and bonds, would create about 34 jobs over time and also greatly reduce the undergrowth in the forest which fuels many of the wildfires.
Following the presentation, for the next 90 minute or so, the majority of the discussion centered on whether there really was a critical need for such a district in the county at the present time.
Chairman Kevin Phillips finally said he felt there is definitely a critical need in the county for what Pegasus Energy is proposing to do with the pinyon-juniper biomass, improve the watershed, solid waste treatment and public necessity and felt the county ought to move forward to the next phase, with the issues and questions that will arise there.
Paul Mathews said the next step needs to include further justification for a 318 district and what its purpose is.
Higbee said he has seen the dramatic differences where the pinyon-juniper grows have been removed. “Once were there was nothing but trees and bare dirt in between, now there is brush and other vegetation and native grasses for livestock and wildlife to feed on. Our tax base, like it or not, is our natural resources.”
All the commissioners questioned VanNatta at length about whether the Industrial Revenue Bonds that would fund the project possibly leave the county liable for any long-term obligations if the waste-to-energy project failed. VanNatta said the county would not be liable.
Commissioners eventually decided on a 3-2 vote to move to the next level in the process. More public hearings and meetings will be needed before the language of an ordinance can be crafted. Mathews and Paul Donohue were dissenting votes.