Jim Monacell, the DeKalb Development Authority legal counsel, confirmed on Dec. 13 that the authority approved the 10-year tax abatement for the proposed $60 million plant on April 10.
With the incentives, Green Energy Partners would pay only 35 percent of its property taxes on the 21.12-acre property in its first year of operation.
Monacell said the taxes would increase by 6.5 percent a year, until the company is paying 100 percent in its 10th year of operation.
Since the approval, Monacell said nothing further has happened.
“The company tells us that it still intends to move forward, but no further action has taken place,” he said.
The bond funding and tax abatement are guaranteed for a year and can be canceled.
Neville Anderson, Green Energy’s president and CEO, requested the 10-year abatement in an April 9 e-mail to the county’s economic development director, Charles Whatley; Monacell; Shelbia Jackson; and Ernest Gilchrist of the Office of Economic Development.
He told the authority that “some form of credit enchancement” was necessary to sell the $53 million in bond funding that the Development Authority approved for the project on Feb. 14.
Green Energy, which is based in Athens, has been pursuing air permits to build the plant despite mounting opposition from residents and the nonprofit Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment.
On Dec. 18, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is hosting a public hearing into its air permit application.
The public hearing takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the Lou Walker Senior Center, 2538 Panola Road in Lithonia.
Deborah Jackson, a CHASE member, said she was unaware that Green Energy had sought a tax abatement for the plant until a reporter called her.
“When it was initially proposed, we were told that it would be personally financed by Mr. Anderson,” she said. “Now two years later we are finding out that there is no real money and they are looking to get taxpayer support to finance this project, which the community is opposed to and which is clearly not a good economic development for the county.”
Jackson, now mayor of Lithonia, was on the City Council in 2010 when the project was first proposed within the city limits of Lithonia. It was voted down by the council, and the Rogers Lake site outside the city limits was picked.
Jackson said all the bond funding and tax abatements are contingent on Green Energy securing environmental permits to build.
“That’s why this hearing on Dec. 18 is so important,” she said. “The community should come out and express their concern to EPD, which will make the decision.”
Jackson said Green Energy is seeking permission to pollute the air to a certain level but that Lithonia is already home to a landfill, a transfer station and heavy truck traffic.
“We are saying that the community’s right to breathe should take precedence over Green Energy’s right to pollute,” she said. “Even a minor source of pollution is too much for a community already burdened by other sources of pollution.”
Anderson said on Thursday that he will attend the Dec. 18 hearing.
“Apart from that I have no comment,” he said.
After Tuesday’s hearing, the community has until Dec. 20 to submit written comments to EPD before it reviews and makes a final determination.
Atlanta-based GreenLaw also said this week that it is encouraging residents to turn out in large numbers to tell the EPD why the plant is a bad idea for the county.
Anderson has said that Green Energy will only use “yard waste” for the fuel source at the 79,710-square-foot plant.
When it was first proposed in 2010, Anderson told residents at a Lithonia meeting that there is no smoke, odor or noise from the plant. He said gasification plants are being built because of the push for renewable energy.
GreenLaw, the nonprofit firm that provides legal and technical assistance to environmental organizations and community groups throughout Georgia, says Lithonia’s air is already polluted and fails to meet EPA health standards.
“Green Energy Partners’ proposed plant will compound this problem by producing harmful air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde,” it said in a Dec. 11 statement. “The facility will also require about 7,500 tractor-trailer truckloads of wood chip fuel per year, generating unnecessary diesel emissions.”