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Taxpayers not on hook

It’s hard to follow the logic used by Biomass President Mark Harris when it comes to the issue of coal waste removal from the company’s location in South Point.

When requesting assistance from the Lawrence County Commission recently, Harris said the company’s issues with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are resolved.

The EPA, however, has a different story to tell.

Erin Strouse, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said flatly that her agency does not consider the issues resolved because the coal waste has not been removed.

“While Mr. Harris has since paid the fees and stipulated penalties, it is still his responsibility to remove the coal waste,” Strouse said. “Ohio EPA has pulled the performance penalty bond money to apply toward the first phase of the waste removal. Using this money, the agency will remove the waste to the extent that it can. The agency’s expectation is that Mr. Harris will fulfill his responsibility to ensure the total waste removal and therefore achieve compliance with the orders.”

Harris on the other hand, said the funds from the performance bond is more than enough to remove the remaining coal waste.

“It is our legal opinion that once they call the bond they have the burden of removing the coal,” Harris said.

In other words, the company’s position is that it recognizes it failed to clean up what it was ordered to clean up. It also claims that because the state has to use those funds that somehow relieves Biomass from any further responsibility.

That’s ridiculous.

The company is essentially shifting the burden to taxpayers and at the same time asking local representatives for assistance.

If Biomass is to gain any favor or community support for its pursuits, it has to recognize that cannot happen until it meets its obvious obligations.