FIND A CASE STUDY on Aspen Power at txlo. corniaspenpower SEE THE TCEQ report on the Lufkin Creosoting at txlo.com/creo about the benefits of the plant. He said it would bring good-paying jobs with a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Jones said he was there to educate people and insisted he was not on Aspen Power’s payroll. That turned out to be a lie. Jones was the point man of Aspen Power’s public relations strategy designed to win over the community, he would later say in a legal deposition. Dr. Dallas Pierre, a neighborhood dentist, suspects Jones was only one element of a covert PR campaign run by Aspen Power owner Danny Vines. Pierre says he believes that Vines made donations to local churches to win support, but can’t prove it. Vines did sponsor a trip to Minnesota for neighbors and civic leaders to view a biomass plant in St Paul. Hartsfield and Pierre refused to go. Trying to deflate concerns about pollution, Vines told the Lufkin Daily News that his plant was “capable of releasing no particulate matter into the atmosphere” when burning wood. But when called to testify, Bill Powers, a court-recognized air quality expert and consulting engineer opposed to the plant, explained that it is neither technically nor economically feasible to remove all particulate matter. In fact, the plant, as originally planned, would have produced so much pollution that it would have been “in violation of the Clean Air Act” according to Kelly Haragan, an environmental law professor at The University of Texas at Austin. Nevertheless, the PR blitz paid off. The claims about pollution-free clean energy and the promise of good-paying jobs began to displace concerns about pollution, noise and truck traffic. In the Lufkin Daily News, letters of complaint were joined by letters of support. The community meetings got larger and turned more favorable toward the plant. Pierre complained publicly about “people, blacks and whites, from areas other than the immediate area of the proposed plant emerging from the woodwork attempting to dissuade North Lufkinites from opposing the industrial complex.” The mood in the community turned toxic. Plant opponents were harassed. Pierre had his north Lufkin dental office picketed. “My office was vandalized,” Pierre says. “And I lost business.” The city council, emboldened by shifting public opinion, passed the zoning change in August 2007. And happily for Vines, right wing state Rep. Wayne Christian had sweetened the deal by quietly passing In an oversight of either towering arrogance or mind-numbing stupidity, the city failed to notify the people of north Lufkin about the plan for a biomass incinerator plant. Aspen Power biomass plant under construction just behind a day care center PHOTOS BY RUSTY MIDDLETON 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG
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