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Citizens Reject Issuance of Final OH EPA Air Pollution Permit for SOBE Thermal's Pyrolysis Plans in Youngstown Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE       February 14, 2024


YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO- February 14, 2024 The Ohio EPA issued  “an air permit-to-install-and-operate” to SOBE Thermal Energy Systems, LLC for a Thermolyzer (pyrolysis) unit to process tire chips in downtown Youngstown.

SOBE Concerned Citizens are outraged by the lack of concern by the Ohio EPA for the health and safety of the people of Youngstown. 

Anne Vogel, Director of the Ohio EPA writes: ”The permit does meet the applicable Ohio environmental rules and regulations, so Ohio EPA is obligated to issue a permit.”

Citizens of Youngstown feel that the Ohio EPA is obligated to protect the public health and safety and not to permit more sources of dangerous air pollution near our populated downtown.

Their permit application to the Ohio EPA states incorrectly that the synthetic gas produced from pyrolyzing tires in Youngstown will only be used to fire boilers to create steam heat.In issuing this permit Ohio EPA did not evaluate air emissions data from process tests, since none exist. They evaluated “modeling” which is, in essence, “projections of data”.  SOBE claims they will use a “ThermolyzerTM”, a variation on pyrolysis technology, which has been subjected to limited testing at best.  TRC Companies did the modeling from tests on a smaller version of what SOBE will install in Youngstown.

SOBE Thermal Energy Systems, LLC’s permit application to the Ohio EPA states that the synthetic gas produced from pyrolyzing tires in Youngstown will only be used to fire boilers to create steam heat. When SOBE’s CEO revealed their business plans publicly on July 21, 2022 he emphasized they would produce synthetic gas for sale.

Youngstown, Ohio is an Environmental Justice Community of Concern as designated by the US EPA due to the poor health outcomes of its minority population who have been exposed to decades of pollution. On September 11, 2023 the US EPA wrote the Ohio EPA a letter instructing them to incorporate Environmental Justice policy when writing the final permit. Now, the Ohio EPA shows blatant disregard of the letter sent to them by the US EPA which stated:”...this permitting action may raise civil rights concerns.”The residents of Youngstown have said, “SOBE-No Way!” and we call on the Ohio EPA to rescind this permit because:

1. The CEO of SOBE has misrepresented his company as only steam heating and cooling, 

2. The Ohio EPA is evaluating modeling of untested equipment never used for pyrolysis at scale,

3. The US EPA has designated Youngstown, Ohio an Environmental Justice Community of Concern and counseled the Ohio EPA to incorporate EJ policy when considering final permit.

For these reasons, SOBE Concerned Citizens calls for the Ohio EPA to rescind this permit. 


President of Youngstown City Council, Tom Hetrick’s statement February 14, 2024:

MORATORIUM ORDINANCE signed by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown December 26, 2023:

Letter from US EPA to Ohio EPA regarding SOBE Draft Air Pollution Permit September 11, 2023:

'Sobe Concerned Citizens' look at new ways to stop waste-to-energy plant

May 18, 2023

Youngstown Council President Tom Hetrick wrote a letter to the Ohio EPA asking about permit updates and how it's decided if the plant is safe.

In a detailed response back, the Director of the Ohio EPA (Anne Vogel) said, 'Authorization from Ohio EPA for this project would not supersede any safety requirements from other authorities, such as OSHA, the local fire department, or local zoning authority.'

CONTACT: SOBE Concerned Citizens: Lynn Anderson 330-792-0428   Susie Beiersdorfer  330-881-1050 A copy of this press release as a docx file can be downloaded here

Media coverage of granting the air pollution permit: WKBN 27: Ohio EPA permit for SOBE plant met with criticism Feb 14, 2024 

Business Journal Daily Ohio EPA Issues Permit for SOBE Thermal Energy Systems February 15, 2024, Dan O'Brien 

WFMJ: Ohio EPA issues permit to SOBE Thermal Energy Systems

Permits include conditions limiting air emissions to protect public health and the environment. In response to comments received, the draft permit was revised to improve the monitoring and recordkeeping at the facility. 

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