Saturday, December 24, 2016

A public message from the Christmas Poo to Synagro and Waste Management re: biosolids plant proposed for Plainfield Township

"I've seen your future, and it doesn't work"

Seasons Greetings to you, Synagro and Waste Management.  The Citizens of Wind Gap, Pen Argyl and Plainfield Township would like to point out that we are aware you attempted to slither silently into town over the Thansgiving and Christmas holidays, while we focused on loved ones and thoughts of a better 2017.

We don't appreciate you sullying our holiday season with the non-permitted crap bakery you would like to force on us under the guise that it is "green", and we're putting you on notice we'll do everything in our power to climb up your asses, and send you on your merry way with stockings full of a slurry of coal and shit.  Your property is permitted one use, Waste Management, and you're making undeniably reasonable use of it - $20m in revenue each year, give or take.  It is only greed that could cloud your vision into believing you deserve even more profit from one piece of land, at the expense of neighbors and residents of our community,

We also don't appreciate having to spend our time, personal savings and tax dollars to defend ourselves, but we must because the consequences of not doing so are far too great.  So "Merry Fucking Christmas, and Happy New Year" to you.  See you in January, with plenty of Citizens and well prepared lawyers to greet you when we next meet.

"Why don't you just leave, Jerry?  Nobody wants you here.  NOBODY!"

Friday, December 23, 2016

Synagro biolsolids plant review before Plainfield Township Planning Commission MOVED to new date

The Planfield Township planning commission has changed its regular January meeting from the 17th to Monday the 16th, for two reasons.  One is to accommodate all of its members' schedules.  It was discovered that for years the January meeting had been held on Tuesday because MLK day was Monday, even though the township does not observe MLK day.  So this change also moves the meeting to the day it should be held.  It will be at 7pm, and is expected to be held at the Plainfield Township Fire Company, due to community interest expected.

End of business on Tuesday December 27 is the deadline to submit new materials for the planning commission to review in January, and it is unknown if Synagro will submit a new site plan, an additional variance application, etc.  It is possible they could proceed with the current site plan review - it simply can't be known at this point.
Edit 12/29 - Synagro did not update its site plan or submit any new materials by Dec 27, so it appears they will move forward with the previously submitted site plan at the January review.

So make a note - the meeting previously announced for Jan 17 has been moved up to Jan 16.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Synagro conceals Plainfield Township biosolids plant review from public, after stating it will be advertised for public participation

Blank page included in Synagro's application falsely leads holder to believe they can't release public information

On October 31, 2016, Synagro submitted a Special Exception Site Plan application to Plainfield Township, on the deadline for appearance at November's planning commission meeting.  A township official reports there was no prior contact by Synagro with the Zoning Officer.  Contacting the Zoning Officer prior to submitting an application is typical, because an Applicant usually wants to get approval of the their use prior to proceeding with an expensive Site Plan and preparation.  In the case of a $20m plant, you would want to get it right.

The submission of an application requires the planning commission to place a review on its agenda, and the Site Plan to be submitted to the township engineer for comment prior to the review.  There is only one conclusion one can draw, who is familiar with the process and the modus operandi of business applicants.  Those who file on the deadline invariably do not want the public to know about their application, and/or know that their use is not allowed and/or associated variances are not merited.  In this case, it is likely all of the above.

Let's look at a piece of evidence.  In the package that Synagro submitted, there is 6 pages of public relations fluff that is not necessary to the application and serves no purpose other than possibly to sway the planners to believe Synagro's use is "green" and a great idea.  Actually it is 5 pages of text, plus the blank page at the top of this post.  As you read continue reading below, consider why that blank page may have been submitted.

The first thing to notice is that on each page, diagonally there are the faint words "DO NOT COPY".  Interestingly, if you copy or fax this document, those words disappear.  The facsimile attached is from photos.  Now, why would those words be there?  Once submitted, that document is public information, and would have to be released in a Right to Know Request, IF THE PUBLIC KNEW TO REQUEST IT.  But there was no requirement for the township to notify the residents, and Synagro knew this.  Those words are there to falsely lead the recipients of it to believe they can't copy it.  How nice that the words evaporate if someone does inadvertently copy it.  Give the person who came up with this a raise.

This document contains the following statement at the bottom of page 4: "Public notifications and hearings will be advertised to provide public participation in the process by making available project information and the opportunity to offer comments and address questions."

Advertising fluff in Synagro's application, with false claim that public will be notified
of public review meeting and "DO NOT COPY" plastered across it

Unlike what Synagro represented in this document, they did NOT notify the public of the Nov 21, 2016 meeting.  The reason is crystal clear - they wanted a recommendation from the planners that night, with no warning to residents.  Robert Cornman, Jr., Vice Chairman, tried on multiple occasions that night to move the application forward, despite having recused himself from motions (!) due to his position as vice president of Green Knight Economic Development Corporation.  By the time the public knew Synagro's plans, they would already have a recommendation from the planning commission.  That is how the game works, and the intent is to DECEIVE the public, and not involve them.  DISGRACEFUL.

What Synagro did do, is publish this document (without "DO NOT COPY") on their website the following day, Nov 22, 2016, along with a press release dated Nov 22, 2016 for the "Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center".  Public opportunity to participate and offer comments and questions my ass.

Plainfield Planning Commission member Robert Cornman, Jr.'s Green Knights announces to public that Synagro is in town the day AFTER his planning commission holds public meeting to review application.  Thanks for the heads up to the community you're supposed to be benefiting, Green Knights!  This is a crock of shit.

Green Knight is supposed to be helping the community - like letting it know there will be a public meeting to discuss plans to locate a 400-ton per day crap processing plant in town.  Fail.

You may ask "why isn't is called the 'Synagro Biosolids Plant'?"  Good question.  Green Knight's plan to recover heat from its Energy Center's turbines died on the vine in 2003 when Techo Bloc bought all three parcels that were to be the "Slate Belt Industrial Center".  Without a manufacturer that could consume Green Knight's waste heat on a nearby site, the plan died.  Until resurrected recently, that is, by placing the consumer where it can't be placed, on Waste Managment's lot that is already being used.  There seems to be a fascination of Waste Management and its nonprofit arm GKEDC with prefacing everything in the area with "Slate Belt".  Placing "Green Knight" in the name of the nonprofit makes everyone think of the school's mascot, but what has Green Knight done for the school recently?  Contribute to the band, the athletic department?  Simply put, the name "Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center" resurrects and idea from Green Knight's infancy - an idea that died shortly after the Energy Center opened.

The substance of the PR document above is as one would expect, and won't be covered in this post.  One thing to note is it states that the source of the shit is the "Tri-State area," yet in a recent Morning Call article Synagro Project Manager Jim Hecht states shit will come from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.  Mr. Hecht, please get your story straight.  We know that Pennsylvania is not in the Tri-State area, but Connecticut is.  There isn't lipstick made thick enough to cover this pig.

Now that the solid waste has hit the fan, and Plainfield Township's BOS and residents from Wind Gap and Pen Argyl are yelling "no mas shit!", Synagro has announced they will hold "public information" sessions on Jan 9 at the Plainfield Twp Fire Company and Jan 10 and Weona Park.  You have to ask why they didn't hold such sessions prior to November 21.  Or do you?  Green Knight should be questioned heavily at these meetings what the hell they are doing partnering with Synagro, since their mission is to "benefit poor and distressed local citizens".  How exactly is this proposal in line with their mission?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Is Synagro and Waste Management partner Green Knight Economic Development Corporation really "broke"?

Various sources report that Green Knight members have told them in confidence "we have no money" and "we're broke".  Since the landfill has recovered from the downturn in the economy in the late 2000's, this doesn't make sense if Green Knight has its expenses under control.  The landfill is producing plenty of methane - there is more than Green Knight needs because it is being flared off by Waste Management.

Green Knight files IRS form 990 as a 501(c)(3)
Green Knight Economic Development Corporation is required to file form 990 with the IRS as a non-profit.  At the bottom of this post are the 990s for 2013-2015, and the first thing noticed is that Peter Albanese, treasurer, lists 45 N. Lehigh Ave in Wind Gap as his address under "Name and Address of Principal Officer". Wind Gap, Pen Argyl and Plainfield Township were each to have three residents representing their interests on the GKEDC board.  Peter is not domiciled at 45 N. Lehigh Ave.  His residence is in Plainfield Township, on Rudolph Road (which has a Pen Argyl zip code).  Green Knight modified its own charter to accommodate wishing to have Mr. Albanese on its board, even though he does not reside in the municipality he is supposed to represent.  If you examine the IRS instructions for Form 990, the "principal officer" is the big cheese, regardless of title.  So "treasurer" inadequately describes Mr. Albanese's responsibilities and authority.

Another thing to notice is Green Knight's mission: "provide economic relief for poor & distressed local citizens."

Land clerk's record for 45 N. Lehigh Ave Wind Gap

Green Knight forms 990 show stockpiling of cash and slashed return to community
An examination of GKEDC's 990s shows that while it cleared roughly $600,000 to $800,000 ( revenue - expenses ) in each of the years 2013, 2014 and 2015, the amount of grants to the community has only been $20,000 to $25,000.  These went to the YMCA (2013) and to Families First and Blue Mountain Community Library (2014 and 2015).

Specifically, here are those amounts:
  • 2013 Revenue less expenses: $780,867  Community Grants: $24,568 (3.2% of net)
  • 2014 Revenue less expenses: $719,915  Community Grants: $20,000 (2.8% of net)
  • 2015 Revenue less expenses: $585,138  Community Grants: $20,000 (3.4% of net)
Gross revenue is steady at about $1.8 to $1.9 million in the past three years, and Green Knight has reported a bank savings account of roughly $4,000,000.

Green Knight Economic Development Corporation FY2015 EOY savings balance $3,993,803

Can Green Knight be "broke"?  Is a 3% community benefit on net income reasonable?
Given that Green Knight's mission as reported on its form 990 is to provide economic relief for poor and distressed local citizens, it begs the question of what they are doing sitting on $4 million, and should they be returning more than 3% of their net income to the needy citizens of the community?  Up until five or six years ago, community grants from Green Knight were more like $120,000 per year - six times what they are now - and distributed to several more than two entities.

Where is the evidence to support rumors and alleged reports that Green Knight is in dire financial straits?  Is is not seen in the 990s.

What is Green Knight currently doing?  They are involved in preparing the Beers site in Plainfield/Wind Gap to be developed, but they are only preparing the site - at a cost of perhaps $400,000.  With $4 million in the bank, how in heaven's name can they be "broke"?  Something is badly amiss here.

Here is an odd thought.  Is it possible that someone is spreading a rumor that Green Knight is broke to justify why they have to sell their waste heat?  Stranger things have happened.  Perhaps at the dog and pony shows that have been arranged for early January at Wenona Park and the Plainfield Twp Fire Company, officials of Green Knight can explain their financial position during Q&A.

Will the residents in the Pen Argyl Area School District see a significant economic benefit from Synagro?
Green Knight is promoting the Synagro project because it allegedly realizes a 17-year long goal to recover energy from its waste heat.  A closer look has revealed that goal had a low probability of realization from the start, because it relied on the waste heat being delivered to a manufacturer located on the current Techo Bloc property at 852 Pennsylvania Ave   That did not happen.  It could not have been planned to locate the waste heat consumer where Synagro proposes, because the zoning never permitted more than one principal use on that lot.

But assuming they could sell their waste heat to Synagro, it is a fair question what the particulars are - what monthly income does GKEDC expect for delivery of its waste energy?  It has been represented that Synagro is supplying the heat exchange equipment on the energy center's turbines - who will pay for the maintenance of said equipment?  What will be the gross economic benefit to the needy and distressed citizens of Plainfield Township, Wind Gap, and Pen Argyl?  We know there will be jobs in the range of $35K to $100K, which means one person making $100K, and everyone else making $35K to $50K.  16 jobs (advertised).  If you're needy and/or distressed, Synagro has a few jobs to enable you to pull up your bootstraps, pull on your protective gear, and escape your unfortunate circumstances - moving poop around in a closed building you will experience the freedom of the soul that accompanies the opportunity to achieve higher and higher goals.  Synagro's storage silos are 52.5' tall.  It will be good for the entire community - especially the thousands living within a few miles of the plant and adjacent to farms in the Lehigh Valley.  We made that!

The proposed project will doubtlessly be lucrative to investors in Synagro and Waste Management, But will there be an increase in Green Knight community grants due to the added income from Synagro?  It is inexplicable why grants suddenly decreased 85%+ around 2011 and have remained depressed, even though net income is healthy.  Reports that GKEDC itself may be "needy and distressed" seem suspicious both by the evidence as well as the timing..  Unless Uncle Billy dropped a bundle of cash down a hole and nobody knows yet.  It is possible that the added income from Synagro will not influence the bottom line to the community at all?

Winners and Losers
Clearly the big winner is Waste Management.  They lease their land, and may get a per ton or some other volume-based fee.  There is big money here - Synagro would receive about $32,000 per day for the 400 tons of crap it hauls in - $80 per ton is typical for hauling Class B sludge out of waste treatment plants.

Next in line is Synagro.  They would not be doing this if it were not profitable.  They plan to win.

Last is Green Knight, and the needy and distressed citizens this non-profit is to benefit.  Given their recent track record of decreased grants and the lack of transparency as to their plans, should they not specifically inform the community what impact this will have on grants they pledge to provide to the community?  As for jobs - please.  We're already faced with the risk of our children settling for driving forklifts.  Do we really want them ending up as floor-flushing poop-pushers?

Alternate poop-less plan for Green Knight and Waste Management that would benefit the community
Let's do something positive for the community, not something to make it worse

Several citizens have asked why there is so much flaring of methane from the landfill, given that this is wasted energy that Green Knight could be converting into electricity and selling.  There is so much flaring that some are even claiming that Waste Management is "burning sludge", because they smell shit and see the flares.  WM accepts 400 tons a day of sludge according to manager Scott Perin, but it is not burning it.  It is being put in the landfill.

Waste Management could expand the piping system in place that currently supplies methane to the Energy Center, to extend to additional parts of the landfill.  If Green Knight is at capacity, use some of the $4m to add a turbine.  Or take out a loan.  This isn't rocket science.  Put your thinking caps on.

Click here for 2013 Green Knight Form 990
Click here for 2014 Green Knight Form 990

Green Knight Economic Development Corporation IRS Form 990 for FY2015, showing $20K in community grants on... on Scribd
Green Knight Economic Development Corporation FY 2015 IRS form 990

Waste Management and Green Knight intended to sell waste heat offsite - Synagro biosolids plant on WM parcel in Plainfield Township is plan B (owel movement)

In 2001, the Green Knight Energy Center opened on land leased from Waste Management.  This operation burns methane from the landfill and converts the energy into electricity that is sold.  The first plan was for Waste Management to sell electricity to local customers, including on 19 acres that Waste Management donated to create the Slate Belt Industrial Center, which was three contiguous parcels at 850, 852 and 854 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the PUC does not allow you to sell electricity to your neighbor.

To sell energy to the grid, Waste Management had to create the "nonprofit" Green Knight Economic Development Corporation.  What could go wrong with big business creating a nonprofit?  The advertised mission of the Green Knights was to benefit the communities in the Pen Argyl School District - Wind Gap, Pen Argyl, and Plainfield Township.  Today, it is to "provide economic relief for poor and distressed citizens."  To effect equal representation, the Charter dictated that three members residing in each community be board members..  When it was later discovered that current member Peter Albanese was posing as a Wind Gap resident, but was actually residing in Plainfield Township, Green Knight simply modified its charter, instead of finding a third legitimate representative of Wind Gap.  Peter owns a business in Wind Gap - that's how he qualifies as a resident.  You just could not make this shit up.  Every rule can be changed.  This is not the kind of representation the founders of the country envisioned.

Green Knight's mission statement is ironic, given that they partnered with Synagro and Waste Management.  It's easy to see who would reap the economic benefits, and who would be distressed if this project were built.  Here is a link to more on the Green Knight Economic Development Corporation and what they are actually doing for the community.

The Slate Belt Industrial Center turned out to be a political fiasco, which can be verified using the internet.  Eventually, Techo Bloc moved into the property, and remains today.  The three parcels were merged into one.
Waste Management's dream of selling electricity and waste heat to manufacturing neighbors was flawed from inception.  16 years later it turns into nightmare for Wind Gap, Pen Argyl and Plainfield Twp residents - the precise entities Green Knight is supposed to benefit.

An article in Waste 360 dated April 1, 2001 contains some revealing facts about the intentions of Waste Management and its "nonprofit" arm Green Knights:
  • The 19-acre parcel ("industrial park") and Green Knight Energy Center were sold as a "green" project - Green Knight would sell electricity and waste heat to one or more tenants in the industrial center only a "few hundred" feet away.
  • Waste Management considered the selling of electricity to be the primary goal, and selling waste heat from the energy center would be "gravy".
 Click this text to read artice
Click Image to read article

The Land Development Plan for the energy center, also reveals some interesting facts:

Note the location of a "future" heat recovery option, and the fact that the topography of the parcel in SW and ownership by Plainfield Township of the old railroad ROW that separates the landfill's parcels are complications the landfill was well aware of when they allowed the energy center to be built in 2001.  It's important to note that the intent was not to make use of the waste heat in the manner as Synagro proposes (onsite), but rather to ship it to a nearby standalone permitted use.  The proposed project is double dipping by Waste Management.  We'd all like to use our properties 10 times what we do, but it isn't allowed.

Waste Management intended during the design stages of the energy center to recover waste heat from the energy center, for use on lands not owned by Waste Management.  But the desperate effort to find a tenant for the "Industrial Center" resulted in a tenant that could use neither Green Knight's electricity nor it's heat.  Flash forward 16 years, and someone decides to go rogue and see if Plainfield won't notice more than one principal use on the lot, as well as the new use not being permitted.  And they're using the same story they did 16 years ago - this project will be "green".  We'll take a look at the PR lipstick they smeared on this pig in another post.

"Morris came back here with the same lies.  The same silly phrases.
Well, he came to the wrong house.  And he came twice.  I shall see that he doesn't come a third time."

One may also conclude that Waste Management is making full use of its parcel currently - and lacks a hardship that prevents reasonable use of the property.  The only "green" here is an even more generous income for Waste Management and Synagro.  A Use variance can't be financially justified  - the state Supreme Court has ruled on this.

Can Synagro move its operation into the SW district, where it belongs?
As noted in the article, the purpose of the parcels in the CI district in this area are to buffer the landfill from uses along Pennsylvania Avenue.  That's smart land use planning.  If Synagro were to be granted the use variances it needs, that buffer would be destroyed.  Let's take a quick look at if it can move into SW, where multiple uses are permitted and crap bakery is a permitted use by right.

In examining the diagram above, note that Plainfield Township retains ownership of the old railroad bed that was developed as a Recreational Trail, which separates the two Grand Central parcels, located in the SW and C/I zoning districts.  That presents an issue, because Synagro has announced plans to continue operations after the landfill closes, and Plainfield's agreement with Waste Management is that the currently closed Recreational Trail will return to use by the township.  Synagro's 20 ton trucks would be crossing the trail.  There is another more major issue.  There simply is not the room needed for Synagro's plant to be placed in SW in this area due to the mountain of trash, wetlands and the Little Bushkill Creek.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sludge Free Upper Mount Bethel Township to hold forum tonight on sludge in Plainfield Township - Synagro proposal

The review of Synagro's application to site a biosolids/sludge processing plant in Plainfield Township was supposed to resume before the Planning Commission at its regular meeting tonight at 7pm at the Plainfield Township Fire Company on Sullivan Trail.  However, due to the Zoning Officer issuing a ruling late last week that affects Synagro's application, they will not reappear before January's Planning Commission meeting (or possibly they will next appear at the zoning hearing board if they go directly towards needed variances).

Sludge Free UMBT will however be holding an information session tonight at the same place and time as the Planning Commission's meeting, in a separate room of the fire company.  A video will be shown, as well as discussion.  Please be respectful of others in the building - the Planning Commission will be hearing two other applications by businesses who plan so locate in the township - businesses with a far better reputation than Synagro.  If you have a gripe or dispute, the Planning Commission's meeting tonight is not the appropriate forum for it, unless you want to stay until the agenda is complete and make public comments at that time.

It is reported that there will be an officer on duty to rough up your ass if you decide to cause trouble, so let's be civil while informing ourselves and expressing our opinions and concerns.