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State Says Coal-To-Diesel Project Won't Harm Air Quality

Analysis says the proposed $2.5 billion plant will not significantly affect air quality or residents' health.

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DALE, Ind. (AP) — A state analysis has concluded a proposed $2.5 billion coal-to-diesel plant in southern Indiana will not significantly affect air quality or residents' health.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management released an air quality analysis last week for Riverview Energy Corp.'s proposed plant, which would convert the region's coal reserves into diesel fuel and other products through a process called direct coal hydrogenation. State environmental officials said the facility wouldn't significantly contribute to pollution and poses very little cancer risk, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

The department found that the plant would emit a total of 30 tons per year of various hazardous air pollutants, most of which would be methanol.

"This means if an individual was exposed to these hazardous air pollutants continuously for 70 years, the risk of getting cancer from this exposure would be 4.6 in 10 million," the state's analysis stated.

Still, environmental groups and some residents remain concerned about the project proposed for a 550-acre site in the town of Dale, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Evansville. Opponents are worried about possible harmful effects from toxic emissions and its potential impact on quality of life and local agriculture.

According to the company's air permit application, the plant would have annual emissions rates of about 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, 225 tons of carbon monoxide and 120 tons of sulfur dioxide.

The plant would produce an estimated 4.8 million barrels of diesel fuel and 2.5 million barrels of naphtha, which is used to make plastics and gasoline, according to Greg Merle, the company's president.

John Blair, a member of Evansville environmental group Valley Watch, questioned the state's analysis because no projects similar to Riverview's have ever been conducted in the U.S.

"Where does the emissions data come from? You can get a model to say anything you want it to say," he said.

Valley Watch is working with Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life and environmental law nonprofit Earthjustice to hire experts to review the company's air pollution permit.

The state's Department of Environmental Management will hold a public hearing on the company's permit Dec. 5.

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