In 2017, Rockwool used a secretive, fast-track process run by the state government to gut our community’s carefully constructed plans for a sustainable mass transit community. Instead, Rockwool plans to build a global-scale insulation factory that will burn fossil fuels around the clock.
The location Rockwool selected for their new plant is an apple orchard next to an elementary school in a residential and agricultural area. The area was never planned for heavy industry, but the company bound state and local government with various “understandings” ahead of the environmental permit process. Now that our community is expressing outrage at their plans, Rockwool is threatening our local government with a $100 million lawsuit if we do not provide them with massive tax incentives.
To make their insulation, as defined in their permit here, Rockwool’s process would primarily involve quarrying stone, trucking it in, melting it in 2,600 degree furnaces powered by coal and petroleum coke, then spinning the molten stone into fibers that are bound using toxic chemicals– including the neurotoxin Formaldehyde. In our view, just because this incredibly energy and resource intensive product uses a minority percentage of recycled slag, does not make it sustainable. Rockwool’s plant, as permitted, would be one of the most prolific emitters of toxic and hazardous air pollution in the entire state of West Virginia.
- You don’t put highly toxic facilities near schools. We’re violating the first principle of environmental protection.
- Rockwool (or Roxul USA, Inc) is a Denmark based manufacturer of home and industrial insulation produced from slag and basalt. Ground has been broken for a 463,000 square foot industrial facility on 130 acres in Jefferson County, WV and is scheduled to begin 24 hour day operations in 2020.
- The location of the factory is within 2,300 feet from an elementary school and within 2 miles of 4 public schools and 2 daycare centers, housing 30% of Jefferson County’s student population.
- No evaluation of the impacts of air toxic emissions on the nearby schools has been conducted. The land use assessment of the surrounding area was based on 1992 data.
- According to the Air Quality Permit Notice that was issued by the WVDEP, the Rockwool Ranson plant, if allowed to be built, would spew 296,000 pounds of asthma-inducing sulphur dioxide (SO2) and 268,000 pounds of particulate matter “PM 2.5” (invisible particles smaller than 2.5 microns) into the air of our community.
- The release of particulate matter (134 annual tons of PM2.5, 154 annual tons of PM10) is known to cause premature birth, oncogenesis, and other health issues. Even small increases in ambient particulate matter can lead to the generation of cancerous cells in a population.
- Because our area is situated in a valley, the dissipation of emissions is inhibited.
- The City of Ranson, Jefferson County, WV was a leader in the “Sustainable Cities” movement before Rockwool.
- We received over $1 million in planning grants and assistance from three federal agencies to integrate affordable housing, economic development, and transportation to build a livable community. Ranson was one of only two cities, of 1,700 who applied, to get all three grants: DOT, EPA and HUD.
- The NorthPort Feasibility Plan that showcased the idea of a multi-modal community featuring 1,000 homes (single family, townhomes and apartments), 10 parks and 800,000 sq ft of office and commercial space.
What happened? Rockwool came to town and secretly negotiated a rezoning application giving them an extra 100 acres of industrial land, a Land Use Restriction Agreement and a Right to First Refusal. Rockwool has removed the legal avenues to build homes at Jefferson Orchards. No homes means no mixed-use community built around mass transit connecting us to Washington, D.C.
And there goes our real-life Sustainable City vision up Rockwool’s 21 story smokestacks; never to return.