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The ‘101 West’ team - part of WFMJ 21 News watchdog brand - spent months investigating and talking with experts, officials, and the owner of SOBE Thermal Energy Systems to learn more about the conversion technology process and residents' concerns.

What's Happening Now

Who is SOBE Energy Solutions?

SOBE Energy Solutions is a Dublin, Ohio based, for-profit consulting company run by David Ferro, CEO. They are marketing themselves as a pollution-free solution to our plastic recycling problem.

Why is SOBE in Youngstown?

SOBE Energy Solutions bought the defunct Youngstown Thermal, a coal-fired steam heat plant for $250,000. SOBE applied to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio as a heating and cooling utility that would provide steam heat for downtown Youngstown buildings. They misrepresented their business when they applied as SOBE Thermal Energy stating they would provide steam heating “in the same manner and rate structure as Youngstown Thermal.” PUCO granted SOBE a permit to purchase Youngstown Thermal, at 205 North Avenue on November 16, 2021.

What is SOBE’s plan for Youngstown? 

At a public meeting on July 21, 2022, David Ferro revealed that his company would superheat chopped up tires and recycled plastics to create new plastic, synthetic gas (syngas) and carbon black for sale, and from the heating process create steam heat for downtown. He also revealed that the company would produce electricity to sell to a sub-contractor who would locate on site and mine cryptocurrency. At a public meeting on October 12, 2022 he added computer waste to the feedstock he plans to superheat to create products for sale.

How would SOBE’s industrial process impact Youngstown?

SOBE Energy Solutions markets its superheating process as “Thermolyzing”, a type of “advanced recycling,” but research has revealed that this business and others are simply REBRANDING pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is incineration. There is pollution caused by this process, it is not a “closed system” generating no pollution. 

What are the concerns?

SOBE's plan will generate toxic air pollution right in the heart of our downtown. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), a worldwide alliance of 800 grassroots groups from over 90 countries has published peer-reviewed scientific papers detailing the carcinogenic toxins that pyrolysis releases into the air, including:   dioxins and furans -endocrine disruptors; mercury, cadmium, lead, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene– which are cancer-causing; plus, heart and lung damaging volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. Air pollution is an invisible killer.

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