June 21, 2024

Waste-to-jet fuel company likely won’t place plant in Gary, after years of plans

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Fulcrum Energy's plant in Reno, Nevada. The plant laid off much of its staff in May. - Courtesy of Fulcrum Energy

Fulcrum Energy's plant in Reno, Nevada. The plant laid off much of its staff in May.

Courtesy of Fulcrum Energy

A bioenergy company aiming to turn household waste into jet fuel will likely not be placing a plant in Gary — much to environmental advocates' relief.

Fulcrum Bioenergy had plans to build a plant in Gary, after receiving an air permitfrom the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. This was despite concerns from some community members.

The Gary Advocates for Responsible Development, or GARD, have been challenging the plant from the beginning, despite strong local and state government support.

Carolyn McCrady is a founding member of GARD. She said the air permit request, and little data about pollution from Fulcrum’s only other plant in Reno, Nevada, concerned her and fellow group members.

“These people come here,” McCrady said. “They're greenwashing. They're saying they're going to bring jobs and revenue and they're not going to pollute. But yes, they are. They're going to have trucks coming in and out day and night. That's particulate matter in our city.”

McCrady said this is a concern for Gary – as it already struggles from large levels of pollution.

“We are an environmental justice community,” she said. “And what that means is that we have historical burdens of pollution, burdens that people suffer from. And there were a lot of very negative health effects, in terms of cancer and lung diseases.”

READ MORE: 'If not now, then when?' Gary residents seek brighter, cleaner future through Biden's EPA

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McCrady described the operation as “sketchy” and said Fulcrum was not transparent about its operations at its other plant – leaving the community without answers about potential pollution or emissions.

Fulcrum has allegedly suffered from financial problems since its Nevada plant opened in 2022. The company initially had plans to open and start operating its plant in 2010, but only opened and began operating nearly 12 years later.

McCrady said the company was likely drawn to Gary due to strong state and local support for these types of business initiatives.

“It’s a pro-business state,” she said. “What does that mean? That the regulations are very loose and that there's money available.”

McCrady said despite demonstrated financial hardship and reports of mass layoffs, the company is not officially denouncing its Gary plant plans. However, she said she is hopeful that this will not go through, and that her organization’s advocacy was a part of it.

“I think that our presence and other signs that pepper yards all around brought a consciousness about ‘we can fight these polluters and we don't have to accept everybody that comes here’ and says, ‘we're going to bring jobs and revenue and forget about the pollution because you're already living in a polluted state,’” she said.

McCrady said this work demonstrates the importance of organizing for worthy causes.

“When you are confronted with corporate dollars and state power, you have to organize,” McCrady said.

Fulcrum Bioenergy did not respond to a request for comment.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.

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