RANSON, W.Va. (August 1, 2020) — On July 31, 2020, one day after Jefferson County Foundation (JCF) released incriminating documentation of ongoing secretive arrangements between Rockwool and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), Rockwool announced in a Facebook post an ambiguous claim that they will no longer use coal as fuel at their planned factory in Ranson, WV. Jefferson County Vision sees Rockwool’s announcement as less of a victory, but more of an attempt of greenwashing their toxic plant.
Rockwool failed to mention whether they will continue to use coal as raw material in their manufacturing process even though they won’t use it in their melting furnace. In a letter, dated March 2, to the WVDEP, Rockwool said, “Rockwool wishes to retain the sources associated with coal-fired operations, in the event operations require reverting back to coal.” The notification, categorized as a Class I Administrative change, circumvents re-doing a Best Available Control Technology (BACT) analysis for the Melting Furnace operations and emissions with natural gas as the sole fuel source. According to guidelines under WV Legislative rule 45CSR13 the WVDEP should have done a Class II Administrative change prompting Rockwool to provide public notice to modify the existing 2018 air permit or apply for a new permit. If not for the incredible determination of JCF addressing the insufficient due diligence of the WVDEP, the change probably wouldn’t have been reported at all. After all, Rockwool sent their notification of switching to gas to the WVDEP nearly 5 months ago but didn’t say anything about this “great news” until their hand was forced by JCF.
While burning gas is cleaner than coal there are still great environmental dangers in the transport of it to the plant via a Mountaineer gas pipeline that is being extended into the Eastern Panhandle through Karst geology. In addition, incredible ecological damage and negative health impacts are caused by the unconventional horizontal drilling and fracked gas production.
Rockwool also made a peculiar attempt of appearing to be responsive to local citizenry by acknowledging the Mayor of Ranson, Duke Pierson, who they say, “has long encouraged [them] to go this route.” Meanwhile they have ignored citizens’ requests to mitigate emissions including particulate matter and to protect from their retention ponds the underground aquifers that lie below a fragile Karst landscape. Rockwool also avoided an excellent opportunity to disclose their “priority” during the June Zoning Hearing in Ranson for the site at Jefferson Orchards. Instead of commenting to the Council that air quality regulations they must comply with are sufficient, they could have told the Council and the Jefferson County community that their operations were going to be new and improved, “reducing the environmental impact.”
JCV sees Rockwool’s latest announcement as another attempt to veil deception as good news and to portray backroom dealing as citizen engagement. We will not stand by idly and will continue to fight for a clean environment and clean government through every means necessary.