New biodigester court ruling likely to impact Greene County case

Some residents are not pleased about the smells and semitrailer traffic at Pitstick Farms, 1146 Herr Road, Bath Twp. Richard Wilson/Staff

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Some residents are not pleased about the smells and semitrailer traffic at Pitstick Farms, 1146 Herr Road, Bath Twp. Richard Wilson/Staff

Bath Twp. is fighting company’s local site, but central Ohio court sided with company this week.

A central Ohio court ruling Thursday in favor of Renergy Inc., could move that company one step closer to winning a court battle over its controversial biodigester facility in Greene County.

The Morrow County Court of Appeals upheld a ruling declaring Renergy’s Emerald Bioenergy site a public utility. The case draws parallels with Dovetail Bioenergy, Emerald’s long-embattled sister facility in Greene County, which was also declared a public utility earlier this year.

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In a 19-page judgment entry dated Oct. 28, Morrow County judges threw out assertions by the Westfield Twp. zoning inspector, which challenged Emerald’s status as a public utility and declared the facility was subject to township zoning regulations.

In Greene County, Judge Michael Buckwalter ruled in Renergy’s favor regarding the Dovetail zoning case in May. Similar to the Morrow County case, Bath Township trustees have appealed the judge’s ruling.

Renergy plans to include the Morrow County ruling in its final brief submitted in the Dovetail case on Monday, COO Cari Oberfield said.

Biodigesters use bacteria deprived of oxygen to break down food and animal waste into fertilizer and methane gas. The methane gas is burned to supply electricity, and the fertilizer is spread over approximately 2,200 acres of surrounding farmland.

Residents of both Bath Township and Morrow County have heavily criticized the facilities for odor, environmental, and health concerns.

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“The stench and noise from the biodigester are constantly emitted from the defendant’s premises at all times of the day and night,” court documents read. “The people of Westfield Township are deprived of the enjoyment of their property.”

Trustees said the assertion that anaerobic digesters are a public utility has broader implications than just Morrow County or Bath Township.

“We still don’t believe they’re a public utility,” said Bath Twp. Trustee Kassie Lester. “It takes the township’s hands out of controlling what’s happening in the township. The issues caused by this facility in this township, we have no control over whether they can expand and cause additional odors and problems.”

Oberfield said the company is both pleased and unsurprised by the ruling.

“We’re happy to finally be done with one and looking forward to finishing up in Greene County so we can move forward once and for all,” she said.

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