GEIDC jeopardizes ERE's proposed 'tires-to-energy' plant

The Greater Erie Industrial Development Corporation (GEIDC), which owns the 60-acre property on Erie’s East Lake Road formerly occupied by International Paper Co., has terminated its sales agreement with Erie Renewable Energy LLC (ERE), jeopardizing the existence of a proposed ‘tires-to-energy’ plant.

As reported by on Oct. 9, the deal for the $370 million project was scrapped after ERE failed to purchase the land by the Oct. 5 date specified in the businesses’ contract.

Plans for the plant were announced in March 2007 and soon met with sharp criticism from community activists worried about pollution.

“We set the date of Oct. 5 as the date to close, and they failed to do so. The sales agreement has lapsed, and, in our view, we have full control of the property,” John Elliot, the GEIDC’s executive director, told GoErie’s Ed Palattella and Lisa Thompson last week.

The sides have taken each other to court over interpretation of the contract. ERE would like an extension on its end, and GEIDC believes it has full right to sell to other potential customers.

Records show that ERE has already purchased nine separate extensions at a cost of $190,000. The real estate closing deal could be worth upward of $2 million.

If ERE were to have to search for another site for the plant, it would also have to consider the applicatory ramifications with the state Department of Environmental Protection. An air-quality permit “is site-specific,” one state representative told GoErie.

ERE is alleging that the GEIDC’s decision has been motivated by politics. In particular, Erie City Councilwoman Jessica Horan-Kunco has made vocal her complaints against the proposed site on “environmental and health reasons,” according to an Oct. 10 follow-up.

Members of the Mercyhurst College community have made their presence felt on the issue. Communication Department Chair Anne Zaphiris heads multiple Facebook pages keeping interested readers abreast of the issue, and the group ‘ERiEresponsible: Citizens against tire-to-energy plant’ boasts upward of 700 members, some of whom are Mercyhurst College students and staff.

Additionally, several students and Asian Studies professor Keiko Miller went to a formal protest at the proposed site last spring, including Green Team President senior Zoey Alderman-Tuttle.

“Several groups came together during a number of protests to help make people aware of what was going on – how the tire plant would negatively affect people’s health and the inherent illogic in burning tires to produce energy. I think that it’s wonderful that the contract has been terminated now. It should never have been signed. It is my understanding that (the site) was in a populated area near children’s schools,” Alderman-Tuttle said.

“In terms of the issue being political, it’s the definition of a politician’s job to do what the majority of their constituents want and what is best for their constituents. To that extent, the issue certainly is ‘political,’ as ERE alleges. Why is ‘political’ a negative word if the city council is doing their job by listening to and protecting their constituents?” Alderman-Tuttle said. “There’s a large portion of the community that recognizes that the negative health effects are far worse than any benefit from possible jobs created by the plant.”