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Lincoln Daily News
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Ethanol editorial spurs resident response          Send a link to a friend

[Note: The following letter was sent to Lincoln Daily News and another newspaper in regard to a local issue, a proposed ethanol plant. The letter is in regard to an editorial in the other paper. It was sent to Lincoln Daily News as well in order to share information and feelings about the matter.]

In response to an editorial [in the other paper] on April 9:

Playing the shame card (Part 1)

I live in the housing area just north of the proposed site for the ethanol plant, known as the Epperson Addition, along with lots of other people. I am not a "letter to the editor writer," but I could not resist this one after reading the [other paper's] editorial titled "Tens of millions of dollars for Logan."

I'm confident that this correspondence will be much too long to put into the paper all at one time, so there will be a Part 2 and maybe a Part 3. I'm leaving it up to the [other paper's] editors to decide how much they can put in at one time. They can put the "Part 2" and "Part 3" labels in where they see fit. I just hope they do not edit or delete anything I have to say. I'm sure I'm opening myself up to lots of animosity, but here goes:

Each time I pick up [the other paper] I keep reading that we as a group (the nearby residents) are opposed to the plant being built at all, anywhere in the county. Apparently, [the other paper] hasn't been reading their own "Letters To The Editor" columns. It seems to me that it has already been pointed out on many, many occasions that we are not opposed AT ALL to the plant being built. We are merely opposed to the LOCATION, as you like to so vaguely put it, "just north of Lincoln." This is definitely a "dead horse" issue and should be put to rest.

So in the editorial, Mr. Wrage played the shame card in an attempt to turn all this around onto the "nearby residents" group, like our goal was simply to deprive the county of future income and drive us all into poverty. As for [the other paper], your appearance of support for Mr. Wrage's statements leads one to believe you threw out the shame card also. It seems you folks would rather print that Mr. Wrage believes we do not want it to be anywhere in Logan County and in fact, should be ashamed of ourselves for our objections, and that we are actually in favor (as demonstrated by our objections) of depriving Logan County of all this wonderful money.

Well, I for one, say shame on [the other paper] and shame on Mr. Wrage for attempting to misdirect the public into thinking this whole deal is nothing but wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and those of us who think differently are just downright narrow-minded and moronic.

Every issue has two sides. Why hasn't Illini Bio honestly discussed the downside of the whole proposition?

From the very beginning, I don't believe that the Illini Bio-Energy representatives have been totally upfront with the people of Lincoln and Logan County. Why was that? Perhaps the answer is reflected by Mr. Wrage's own statement, "If you were told that it's going to blow up, that it will suck your wells dry, that it will pollute your air, of course your (sic) against it."

Did anyone besides our group notice that the EXACT location of the proposed "plant" was not announced until we began pushing for that seemingly hard-to-divulge information? The early announcements about the plant in the various newspapers (in terms of its location) had only the vague reference to being "north of Lincoln," which in my estimation, covers a long distance and could have meant just about anywhere out of the city. I would venture the guess that most folks, including myself, leaped to the conclusion that this meant far off out in the "boonies" of the county somewhere. Surely that was not on purpose, was it? I was surprised this wasn't included in Mr. Wrage's list of "if you were told" stated above.

At any rate, those at Illini Bio must have felt this exact location information was rather significant, in terms of it becoming an alarming factor to some of the "nearby residents," and therefore did not announce it earlier in the game. Perhaps it could be explained away as being kept a "secret," like other developments around town, out of "necessity." Or perhaps it was because the exact location would alarm more than just the "nearby residents," due to the close proximity of the plant to the city limits and, in turn, the city residents as well.

[to top of second column in this letter]

"They" keep saying there is no danger of explosion. If this is true, why is it that the Illinois EPA is requiring them to create (for possible implementation) an explosion evacuation plan that will cover an area of 2 miles around the plant? By the way, for those of you who don't already know this, it is only 1.6 miles from the proposed site to the downtown Lincoln courthouse. I have measured this twice in two different vehicles, because I couldn't believe the results the first time. Of course, what this means is that the 2.5-mile radius will take in a much greater distance in area as far as the city of Lincoln being in potential danger goes. This is a fact -- and you are right, not one that was ever included in the sales pitch.

In reference to the existing homeowner wells being sucked dry, I have no knowledge that this will or will not occur. Very simply, what I do know is if I put a straw into a glass full of water and the tip of the straw goes to a location at the bottom of the glass to begin removing water, the water level appears to be dropping from the top down, not the other way around.

About the pollution: The levels they say will be produced I believe are within the "legal" levels set forth by the state and are therefore "acceptable" levels of pollution. What an odd concept. It's OK to pollute the air after all. Ask someone with asthma if they think there is an "acceptable" level of dirty air to attempt to breathe.

Oh, and don't forget all those "tens of millions of dollars pouring into the Logan County economy" at the same time.

You stated that every farmer in the county will benefit financially from this plant. I agree with that statement. So why is it so difficult to also see that anyone who is a farmer or a relative of one or who has any financial interest in this plant and is also on the Logan County Board is in a conflict of interest situation and should not be allowed to vote on the issues surrounding this plant?

Regardless of legalities, anyone on that board would be hard-pressed to state that their judgment (when it comes down to voting) would not be influenced by the personal financial gain of the plant being approved. Maybe they should pull some character or integrity off the shelf in their machinery sheds, blow the cobwebs off and let their consciences be their guide. They will continue to live in this community long after their vote is counted.

Now, getting back to the good folks at [the other paper]. You stated, "The nearby residents also are opposed to what they say will be an unacceptable increase in truck traffic, obnoxious odors, noise, flooding nearby flood-prone Brainard's Branch with discharge and -- and surely we've left something out." That last statement "and surely we've left something out," did not sit too well with me.

It was as if we are all a bunch of whiny know-nothings who just go on and on about the smallest of issues instead of focusing on the bigger, more important financial "future of the county" picture.

I'm getting ready to play the shame card myself, can you tell? It goes to the folks at [the other paper]. I don't believe that statement was in any way responsible journalism, nor was it, in the least bit, respectful of your readers -- you know, the ones who spend their money to buy your newspaper.

If we are to debate any issue, can't we respect the opinions of BOTH sides? I know Illini Bio has an agenda here. But so do the people who will be affected by that agenda.

Illini wants to make money with an ethanol plant.

The Logan County Board wants to bring much-needed income into the county through additional business and industry.

Lastly, the people who will be required to live FOREVER with the upcoming decisions on the table want to be able to live comfortable, healthy, safe lives with their families.

What a big responsibility for those in charge of us little folks to bear. Good luck with that.

Tom Leith

(Posted April 16, 2005)

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