Natchez plant official says operation doesn’t need state permits

Published 7:22 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2007

An official with U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp. says the biofuel operation does not need permits from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality because his soybean-to-fuel process doesn’t create waste.

“We have no emissions to the atmosphere or into water,” CEO John Rivera said. “That’s my claim to fame.

“The only permit I could possibly need would be a rainwater discharge permit. If a Girl Scout was selling cookies under a tent, she would need a rainwater discharge permit.”

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U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp., recently bought, through a holding company, land and warehouse buildings near the Natchez-Adams County Port.

Rivera said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials visited his research and development facility in Port Gibson “at least eight times” to verify he did not need a permit for that facility.

The Port Gibson facility, much smaller than the planned Natchez plant, started developing the production system in 1996, he said.

Laura Niles, a spokeswoman for EPA Region 4, said she did not have information about Rivera’s Port Gibson plant.

“You need permits depending on the size of the plant and what chemicals are on the site,” Niles said. “More than likely, he will need state permits.”

The MDEQ is delegated the authority to enforce EPA air and water permitting programs, MDEQ officials said.

“Whether you need an air emissions permit is based on your potential to emit,” said Bryan Collins, chief of the energy and transportation branch for the MDEQ environmental permits division. “If you do not exceed those thresholds, you may not have to have a permit.”

Collins said he was unaware if the EPA had visited the Port Gibson facility or not.

“The EPA doesn’t come over here and do things without us knowing about it. That’s not to say Mr. Rivera has not had individuals from EPA attend a visit to his facility.

“It would be very unusual for EPA to have direct contact with a potential manufacturing site as taking the lead on it without referring people to us,” Collins said.