UPDATE: It is time for Spencer County officials to demand action from Riverview Energy.

October 10, 2020 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

This night picture of the experimental plant built in China shows it as part of a much larger petroleum refinery complex. Because of its proximity to the conventional refinery, it is likely that instead of coal, it uses petroleum coke, a refining waste as feedstock. In any case, such a plant, lit up to feign daylight on the ground will permanently alter the bucolic life of those who currently live in Dale. Photo credit:Unknown. 

Valley Watch and Southwest Indiana Citizens For Quality of Life (NOC2D) have remained active during 2020 in our efforts to keep the ridiculous proposal for a Coal to Diesel plant from being constructed in Dale. Of course, the Covid Pandemic has slowed life as usual but our efforts remain strong and we predict success in stopping the plant in the end.

Surely, you remember in 2017 when Riverview Energy made its original pitch to County leaders and the word on the Street was, “This is a done deal!” And although many of the details surrounding the plant were (and still are) kept secret, our groups have collectively managed to analyze the economics, emissions and overall viability of building and operating such a costly and polluting plant in the bucolic town of Dale. Dale’s Town Board bought into the plant with stars in their eyes over the promised tax revenue a $2.5 billion plant would bring. 

But here is the thing. This plant will only be built by defying all the odds. 

First, is its stated cost. Did you know that Riverview is still using the same cost figures they used when they went to Vermillion County in 2010. In depositions, Riverview said the proposal in Spencer is identical to the one first proposed for Vermillion. And it should be noted that after nearly seven years there, Vermillion County officials tired of Riverview’s empty promises and politely told them to go elsewhere. Do Riverview’s financial experts claim there has been zero inflation since 2010?

Second, Riverview has claimed that financing for the project is just around the corner but have shown no evidence that their project will meet even the most liberal criteria for what will ultimately be closer to $4 billion. We do know that it DOES NOT qualify for current loan guarantees from the Federal Government since they refuse to capture and properly dispose of the enormous carbon dioxide emissions they will create.

Third, Riverview is a “start-up” company. They are not an established Exxon, Apple or Amazon that can finance such a large project out of pocket. In fact, their owner and President, Mr. Merle admitted in sworn testimony that he had zero experience in the manufacturing, construction, or operating anything, let alone what could turn out to be the third largest project ever undertaken in Indiana. Indeed, his previous experience was tutoring rich kids to take the SAT test-a business which I might add failed.

Fourth, there are only two of these facilities built in the entire world. One is in communist China and one in Russia, both of which are dictatorships with very limited environmental regulation. Of course, Merle also says he has been to neither but expects his money people to accept that as good business practice. USA environmental rules will significantly add to the cost of such a facility but Riverview does not seem to understand that fact or perhaps their plan is to simply ignore even the loose conditions of their construction permit which our groups have challenged, so far winning on at least one count where IDEM ignored their own public participation rules to issue.

Fifth, we are now living in a carbon constrained world. The international coal industry is on its last leg and the transportation fleet, including shipping are seeking alternatives to diesel fuel and naphtha

This list of reasons is almost endless but consider this. Riverview has a ten year history of promising things they simply can’t or won’t deliver. And, although they have had the support of County and economic development officials in Spencer County, nothing changes the fact that no one in their right mind is going to loan someone with zero experience, billions of dollars to build something that may have made sense in the early 20th Century but is nothing but a failed technology for a carbon conscious society in 2020.

Thus, I ask, when are Spencer County and Dale leaders going to follow the action of those in Vermillion County and tell Riverview that they are tired of continual division in their community and that it is time for him to put up or shut up. Riverview claims to control the land they have chosen and they have already had almost seventeen months since acquiring permission to begin construction but have actually done NOTHING to make that happen.

Officials need to ask what is the status of their land options? What is the status of the Front End Engineering and Design? What is the factual status of Riverview’s financing and who is providing that? Where is Riverview going to get their process water and who is paying for the infrastructure to get it to the site? Where is Riverview going to dispose of both its solid and liquid waste and what will that consist of? What kind of Federal, State and County taxpayer subsidies is Riverview asking Hoosiers to make?

If Riverview refuses or does not want to publicly disclose the answers to these and other pertinent questions, then everyone in Spencer County should tell them to hit the road and allow the whole community to reunite to achieve the progress they so rightly deserve.

Spencer County already has the dubious distinction of being one of the most toxic polluted communities on earth, ranking in the top 25 in the US while sporting a population around 20,000. Illustration credit BlairPhotoEVV

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