Renergy reaches agreement with Ohio AG on biodigester lawsuit in Greene County

FAIRBORN — Renergy Inc. and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have reached a settlement in a civil suit filed in Greene County Common Pleas court surrounding alleged violations of Ohio’s air pollution control laws and the operation of an organic waste facility in Fairborn, court records show.

“We are pleased that the Greene County Court of Common Pleas entered the Consent Order, which represents a negotiated settlement between Renergy and the Ohio EPA,” said Cari Oberfield, Chief Operating Officer for Renergy. “The Consent Order resolves alleged air permit violations involving ammonia emissions from a tank that is part of Dovetail’s digester. It includes deadlines, which we will meet, for the submission of an air permit application for the tank and the installation of measures that will reduce emissions.”

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Following years of odor complaints from people living in Greene County, the Ohio Attorney General filed the lawsuit against the operators of a controversial biodigester claiming the companies have been operating without necessary permits.

The lawsuit claims the violations would have started in Feb. 2018, which would put the possible maximum fine at over $36.5 million. The agreement requires Renergy to pay a total civil penalty of $75,000 that will be held in abeyance as long as terms of the settlement are met.

“It is worth noting that the levels of ammonia emitted from the tank are estimated to be much less than the ammonia from a typical hog manure lagoon, which is exempt from the air permitting requirements,” Oberfield said. “It is also worth noting that Dovetail is the subject of weekly inspections by the Ohio EPA and has never been cited for a nuisance odor violation.”

The lawsuit is separate from another federal lawsuit filed by Fairborn and Bath Twp. officials was filed in federal court earlier this month against the operators of the biodigester, Renergy Inc. and Dovetail Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Ohio Environmental Protection agency. The lawsuit alleges the facility on Herr Road has been operating in violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

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Fairborn and Bath Township’s filing of the lawsuit comes about two months after both filed a notice with an attempt to sue the two companies and two agencies over complaints of odor and air pollution from the facility. The city spokesperson said the advance notice was filed in an attempt to work on a resolution.

Previously, Kassie Lester, a Bath Twp. Trustee, told News Center 7 there had been thousands of odor complaints over the last three years.

“The lawsuit focuses on the fact that Renergy and Dovetail Energy have been operating a digestate lagoon at its biodigester facility in Bath Township and allowing the lagoon to emit significant quantities of ammonia without applying for and obtaining an air pollution permit, without controlling the ammonia emissions with the best available technology, and without following the mandates of Ohio’s air toxics law,” the Fairborn spokesperson said in the media release.

The lawsuit names the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA as well, claiming both agencies failed to enforce the Clean Air Act and allowed the biodigester to operate without the proper permits.

“We gave all involved an opportunity to discuss the issues with us in an attempt to resolve the matter without litigation. No one took the opportunity. “We take the health and safety of our citizens seriously, and we could not stand by while this issue continued unaddressed and unabated,” Fairborn City Manager Rob Anderson said in the statement.

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