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Proposed waste-to-jet fuel plant in Gary faces opposition

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Courtesy of Google Maps
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An aerial view of Fulcrum BioEnergy's Sierra BioFuels Plant in Storey County, Nevada.

The Gary Common Council recently voted to approve an industrial plant that converts trash into jet fuel. If built, it would be the largest such facility in the country.

Flyn van Ewijk is the developer for the project for Fulcrum BioEnergy. He said the plant would create 130 full-time jobs and about 1,000 in construction. Ewijk said it’s also a greener kind of jet fuel that would divert 700,000 tons of waste a year from the greater Chicago area.

“It's a fuel that reduces [jet] emissions by over 80 percent compared to traditional fuels — or fossil based fuel — and in the process diverts a significant amount of waste from landfills, including in northwest Indiana," he said.

But some Gary residents have concerns about pollution from the plant. Kimmie Gordon is the founder of the nonprofit Brown Faces Green Spaces and part of a new group that formed in opposition called GARD — or Gary Advocates for Responsible Development.

Fulcrum’s only other plant near Reno, Nevada, hasn’t yet produced its first batch of fuel. Gordon said that makes it hard to say how much pollution comes out of Fulcrum’s process and what effect it would have on residents in Gary.

“When we ask those questions, they're unable to tell us simply because their plant in Reno is not operating yet," she said.

Lori Latham is the environmental and climate justice committee chair for the Gary branch of the NAACP. She said Gary has long been a "dumping ground" for industry and that putting the Fulcrum plant there would continue that legacy of pollution.

“I have a hard time seeing how the city can move forward and access the asset that our lakefront is by, you know, locating solid waste dumps there," Latham said.

Rebecca Thiele