Citizens’ Alliance for a Clean, Healthy Economy
PO Box 39
State Road, NC 28676

January 9, 2010
For release Immediately

CACHE (Citizens’ Alliance for a Clean, Healthy Economy) today released their response to Surry County Commissioners Chairman Craig Hunter’s rebuttal testimony to the North Carolina Utilities Commission opposing a request by Duke Power and Progress Energy to delay the poultry litter set-aside in General Statute 62-133-8 (f).

Sam Tesh, President of CACHE said, “We are a grassroots organization opposed to the siting of a Fibrowatt, LLC poultry litter incinerator, not only in our county, but also in two other counties selected by Fibrowatt: Sampson and Montgomery. We are responding to Commissioner Hunter’s testimony because we are concerned that his testimony is flawed in that he and his lawyer were selective in the questions he chose to answer. We are also concerned because he has made general statements without regard to actual facts. For these reasons, we are offering our rebuttal to his testimony.”

The rebuttal to Commissioner Hunter’s statement is as follows:

In a sworn and notarized statement to the North Carolina Utilities Commission on December 17, 2009, R. Craig Hunter, Chairman of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, through the office of Edwin M. Woltz, Attorney, filed a Rebuttal Testimony to oppose a request by Duke Power and Dominion Energy to delay the poultry waste set-aside in NC General Statute 62-133-8(f) and in support of Fibrowatt, LLC.

Chairman Hunter later was quoted in the Mt. Airy News, as saying, “My testimony to the NC Utility Commission was exactly what it states — information on the positive impact expected from Fibrowatt/Fibrohills building and operating a new renewable energy power plant in Surry County and the negative consequences if that does not happen as announced by the company.”

On page 2, in lines 21 & 22 of Mr. Hunter’s testimony, in response to the question, What actions, any, has Surry County taken to attract Fibrohills, LLC? Mr. Hunter says, “Surry County has spent or committed in excess of $2, 174,545.00 for the purchase of land, site development and the delivery of utilities to the site.” This is less than the amount he mentioned in June, 2008, when Surry County announced that they had reached an agreement with Fibrowatt. At that time, in a Winston-Salem Journal article, Mr. Hunter said that although Fibrowatt had not asked for any incentives, the county had committed to provide $3.2 million in incentives. However, on the Fibrowatt web site, dated June 5, 2008, the company says that they will be receiving “a tax incentive and construction package from the county that could be worth $5.2 million.”

CACHE wants to know exactly how much Fibrowatt has been promised by our commissioners, and how long it will take to make this money back through taxes? Also, we are concerned that the county has committed to these incentives before holding the required public hearing on the matter.

An additional point concerning Fibrowatt: In a meeting of the County Commissioners (when the commissioners voted to rezone the proposed site along Highway #268), when concerned citizens asked to speak in the public comment portion of the meeting about re-zoning that particular site from Agricultural to Heavy Industry zoning classification, Chairman Hunter instructed speakers that they were not to use the word “Fibrowatt” because the commissioners were not re-zoning the site for that particular company, but for industry in general.

Mr. Hunter’s statement that Surry County “has spent or committed in excess of $2,174,545” in response to the question, “What actions…has Surry County taken to attract Fibrohills, LLC?” indicates that he was not being completely honest when he forbade us from mentioning Fibrowatt in our concerns about re-zoning the land. It appears that the site was, indeed, intended for Fibrowatt.

We are also concerned about the expenditure or commitment of either $2 million , $3.2 million, or $5.2 million in order to obtain what Terry Walmsley, a representative of Fibrowatt, has admitted would only be 8 to 10 new jobs. The great majority of the jobs, Mr. Walmsley has said, will be for truck drivers who are already employed in moving poultry litter. Of the fewer than 30 on-site jobs, our group wonders, how many will be hired locally and how many will (as many do in Benson, MN) commute to work from more urban areas (like Winston or Charlotte)?

Of course, estimates of from 200 to 400 short-term (less than two years) construction jobs are possible; however, in building the Fibrohills plant near Elkin, how many of those jobs will go to local workers, and how many will be imported? As a matter of fact, in October, 2009, Fibrowatt announced that they had executed an initial agreement with Fagen, Inc. in Minnesota “for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of its first biomass-fueled power project in North Carolina.”

On page 3, line 8 of his testimony, Mr. Hunter says that the incinerator would add at least “$140,000,000.00 to the County’s tax base.” We would like to know where he got his figures, and whether he took into account that experience elsewhere shows we can expect a 20% drop in residential and farm property values with the coming of an incinerator. Because realtors are required by law to disclose the possibility of such an incinerator, we know that already some home and property sales have been lost..

On page 3, lines 21 and 22, continued on page 4, lines 1-3: Mr. Hunter says, “A small number of vocal opponents have made negative headlines about the project.” We also recall that this is the same person who told us that “77,000 people in Surry County” were in favor of this project, when the US Census Bureau in 2008 estimated the total population in Surry County only at about 72,400. Perhaps his “small number of…opponents” is limited to the population of Elkin? (By the way, 41 doctors and 11 pharmacists are among that “small number.”)

He also says that “the vast majority of Surry County residents favor the expansion of the County’s tax base and the creation of new jobs….” This is akin to saying the vast majority of Americans are in favor of democracy. Does he think those of us who are vocal against Fibrowatt are against expanding the tax base and new jobs? We certainly are not! We simply believe that Fibrowatt is not the best way to achieve those goals. We want to encourage economic growth. We see Fibrowatt as a short-sighted attempt to gain a questionable industry at the risk of losing other, cleaner industries and businesses.

We also would like to call Mr. Hunter’s attention to the survey conducted by The Yadkin Riverkeeper in which 80% of the respondents in both Surry and Yadkin counties were opposed to Fibrowatt.

Moving on to page 4, lines 20-23, in response to the question, “Are you familiar with the poultry waste set-aside of Senate Bill 3, Session Law 2007-397…?”, Mr. Hunter says, “…generally…and (I) have discussed the implications with various Department Heads, including the Surry County Tax Administrator and the Surry County North Carolina Cooperative Extension Director.”

Our question is whether he went outside of Surry County to discuss implications? Perhaps with the power companies who are required to purchase this higher-cost electricity? Perhaps with Mike Ewall or Alan Mueller, the acknowledged experts in poultry litter incineration? Perhaps with any states which have said “no” to incinerating poultry waste, such as Delaware and Pennsylvania? Or countries such as Ireland? Our best bet is no, he did not. We are concerned that since 2005, Fibrowatt has had lobbyists in place to quietly “sell” their industry to legislators and public officials.

On page 5, lines 13-19, of his testimony, in response to the question, “In Surry County’s Due Diligence Process, has any county representative visited any other Fibrowatt facility, other than Fibrominn? Mr. Hunter replies that yes, the county did send one delegate to England, whose research and personal observations were all positive. That delegate was Robyn Rhyne, who was at that time President of the Economic Development Partnership. According to a Winston-Salem Journal newspaper story (June 8, 2007) , Rupert Frazer, President of Fibrowatt, says that Robyn “cornered” him and sold him on the merits of Surry County. He also said that at one point he began to think of Ms. Rhyne “as a member of his own team.”

CACHE’s question is, was Ms. Rhyne qualified [i.e.: what kind of science education or environmental courses did she have prior to this trip?] to consider the environmental impact of British Fibrowatt, or did she merely see a recruiting opportunity? After all, her job depended upon how many industries she recruited.

CACHE members certainly understand that the Surry County Commissioners, including Mr. Hunter, have committed themselves so entirely to Fibrowatt that they would lose face if they were to admit that this was not a choice made in the best interests of the people of the county; however, we encourage them to review their decision and tell this company that Surry County citizens will not sell our health and safety for a few pieces of silver.

Citizens’ Alliance for a Clean, Healthy Economy, Betty Tesh, Secretary
Contact Person:
Sam Tesh
336-366-2980 or 7905
326 Gramar Rd.
State Road, NC 28676