The people are calling on the commission to do their job and represent Jefferson County. Disband the Jefferson County Development Commission and restructure that group, and in the process tear up the contract with Rockwool. Its creation was fundamentally flawed and Rockwool will lose its lawsuit against the county.
Do not approve water for the plant.
Voters, replace any commissioner who still stands by Rockwool. Replace Onosko when his time is up. Elect candidates who you can trust.
Statement from Commissioner Onosko
Peter Onoszko for Jefferson County Commissioner
I have been contacted by many people who live in Jefferson County regarding the Rockwool plant. It is a complex issue and I want to set the record straight. Sometimes an elected official has to say what some people don’t want to hear. I am committed to telling you the truth – so here goes.
Jefferson County has no jurisdiction regarding the plant because it is being built in Ranson.
According to state code, Ranson’s zoning and planning apply to that location, not Jefferson County. The legislation that made that possible was supported and sponsored by former Senator Herb Snyder and current Senator John Unger. I am on record as opposing any further so-called “pipe stem annexations” by municipalities.
The only role that the Jefferson County Commission played in bringing Rockwool to our county had to do with the so-called “PILOT agreement” – also known as payment in lieu of taxes. That was passed by the County Commission unanimously. My vote on the PILOT agreement was based on the due diligence research conducted by Commissioner Jane Tabb. The County Commission sent Commissioner Tabb to Byhalia Mississippi to do a site inspection of the Rockwool facility there. She came back with glowing reports about the company that prompted me to vote yes on the PILOT agreement.
My decision was reinforced – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – by the input and actions of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club worked with the Obama administration and the EPA in 2015 to make the environmental regulations and protections more stringent for mineral wool and its manufacture – the product that Rockwool produces. Further, inside the 600 page application there is correspondence submitted by the Sierra Club to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The Sierra Club expressed concerns about the Rockwool plant and the WVDEP responded to those concerns.
Since nothing further was heard from the Sierra Club, it is clear that their concerns were addressed and that since the Sierra Club had no further objections that would appear to be the end of the matter. There was ample time for the Sierra Club, environmental groups, citizen groups to object to the issuing of the permits to Rockwool.
But they didn’t.
I call on the Sierra Club to address their role in the process – to explain their communications with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection – and to explain why there were no further objections raised. Is my reliance on their judgment misplaced?
That said, the job that lies before me is to proceed and go forward based on where we are now. My fiduciary responsibility to you, as your County Commissioner, is to ensure that Jefferson County does not make a mistake that could have dire consequences. We simply can’t unilaterally back out of agreements signed in good faith. Once a contract is signed, abrogating the contract leaves the abrogating party open to liability. There are an abundance of trial lawyers in Jefferson County – you can ask them.
Preliminarily, my sources tell me that that liability is potentially in the tens of millions of dollars. Perhaps more. In other words, unilaterally cancelling contracts have consequences – potentially onerous consequences. My job is to act responsibly based on the circumstances as they now stand. I care about you the taxpayer and I don’t want our County to run the risk of bankruptcy. To that end, together with my fellow County Commissioners, we have acted to retain outside counsel to advise the county with regard to the legal ramifications and options regarding Rockwool.
I commit to you that I will monitor the situation closely and if indeed the facility does not maintain the public health standards required under the permitting process I will certainly act.
For the future – and I repeat – I oppose any further annexations. I also am committed to working toward better communication between the County Commission and the public. We have a website and anyone can sign up for email alerts from the county. I also am committed to ensuring that Rockwool lives up to their agreement with regard to our environment and also their financial obligations going forward.
Sierra Club Responds
Sierra Club West Virginia has come under attack from one of the commissioners desperately trying to defend the #ToxicRockwool facility in Jefferson County. Here’s our response to this frivolous political assault:
Chair of the WV Chapter of Sierra Club here.
I’ll make this response short and plain, because I’m not one for camouflaging things in misleading language and vague innuendo, which is pretty well what this entire post is.
We’ll address these points one by one.
1. The Sierra Club did indeed weigh in on some of the current mineral wool regulations at a national level three years ago. This happens with every major environmental law, and we try to get as many protections for people as we can. Our commentary on a rulemaking process was by no means meant to give a local politician cover to say “Yeah, cool, chuck this heavy industrial facility next to our schools”, and in no way means that it’s safe to do so. It’s not. Sierra Club WV opposes this facility in every way.
2. Yes, we did raise several concerns about the obvious and glaring deficiencies in the Air Permit with DEP. This was done after the official comment period, because like many people, we weren’t watching for this monster the night before Thanksgiving when it was released for comment. The DEP’s response was lengthy, but it can essentially be summarized as “Yeah, that’s nice, but we’re going to ignore it and go ahead anyway.”
We still hold these concerns, they’re still valid, but the current iteration of WV DEP is lead by a coal industry lobbyist with a publicly stated purpose of greenlighting industry. Again, Sierra Club WV in no way approves of this blatantly shady process, or of this awful facility.
3. We still oppose this facility. Our members, especially those in Jefferson County who are directly affected and care about their community, are fighting this every day, in every way. Commissioner Onoszko has personally heard from them time and again in publicly recorded committee meetings, and I can only speculate that he’s pretending to forget their existence because it’s politically convenient for him to drive that narrative.
Sierra Club WV opposes this facility, remains opposed to this facility, and is fighting it through every available avenue.
4. With all that being said, and all excuses of fictional Sierra Club authorization being removed from this farce, we call on Commissioner Onoszko to do his job, step up to the plate, and protect the people of Jefferson County from this monstrous facility that will have dire effects upon their health.
Thanks so much to the amazing people of Jefferson County for trying to protect themselves against this facility, and the rogue officials and bodies trying to avoid taking responsibility for this horrible mistake they’ve made.
You are a constant inspiration to me, and to all the people of West Virginia.
Don’t let politicians like Onoszko divide us.
Sierra Club WV will be beside you in this fight til the bitter end.
Thank you so much,
WV Chapter of the Sierra Club