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Montezuma County commissioners hear public comment on biochar proposal

The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners heard public comment on the proposed biochar facility Tuesday, July 9.

The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners heard public comment on the impending biochar facility on what was previously the site of the IronWood Mill at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, July 9.

Neighbors of the facility, who have been vocally opposed to this proposal and past operations on the site, spoke again to the commissioners about their concerns.

Palaterra-USA, the company implementing the biochar production site, had applied for a high-impact permit. The county determined that their application included nothing that was not granted as a use by right under the land use code given the zoning of the property.

“At this point in time, long story short, there’s not a need for a high-impact permit to run a biochar operation on the IronWood Mill site so long as everything remains within threshold standards,” said County Attorney Ian MacLaren.

Nonetheless, the group of neighbors urged the Commissioners to take action against the facility.

Following are comments.

Roy Gettier, Dolores: “Accidents do happen. Nothing is foolproof, and this is all, ‘They can clean up their property,’ but they're going to have all that heat and pressure build up and all that anything can happen there, and it gets into that green belt, and people got lots of land in there.”

Dean Valdez, Dolores: “There is a business, a well-established one, right next to it that you will destroy by letting this happen. Nobody wants to sleep in a camper right next to chipper shredder or jet engines blowing or smelling toxic fumes.”

Ingrid Ward, Dolores: “I think you should overrule the bad decision of the planning and zoning director that (the) public process should be halted at this late stage.”

Julia Anderson, Dolores: “Now, with oversight, maybe this can be a good project somewhere, but the problem that we have is that we have not seen oversight.”

“We're not legal scholars, we're not scientists. We just know that this is very dangerous, and the history has not been good. My suggestion is that if your hands are tied, and they might be, you better be looking how to get them untied, because this isn't going to be the last time this happens”

Sheila Wheeler, Dolores: “You're asking us to accept and allow a biochar facility to contaminate our air, our water sources, the soil, the health of ourselves, that of visitors with the toxic fallout of pollutants that will be emitted from a biochar facility.”

“Our hands are tied in a lot of ways, up here with this commission. We run by statue, we have things that we can and cannot do. I know that a lot of people think we have ultimate power and ultimate authority to just barge in and do anything that we think is right or wrong. That's not the case,” said Jim Candelaria, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.