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Fibrowatt: “Quietly they came into Page County…Quietly we would like you to leave.”

March 17, 2010

If you were in Page County, Virginia on Tuesday night, you would have seen an experiment in Democracy.

Could a large, polluting corporation muscle it’s way into a rural community against the will of its citizens? Would the local elected leaders listen to the voters? Or would they make backroom, non-disclosure deals with the corporation?

The night began with citizens voicing their opinions. There were several people who charmingly asked everyone to have an “open mind”, but it turned out these men were either on the Planning Commission, EDA, or another organization that had been in secret talks with Fibrowatt for months. Their disingenuous speeches fell on deaf ears. Instead, the citizens who did their own research on Fibrowatt carried the room:

Listen to .mp3:

Download the Mac Video .mov (ctrl click and save link as).
Size: 43 mb
Running time: 8:55 minutes

Then, unanimously, Page County Supervisors voted to notify Fibrowatt that the county was not interested in locating a waste incinerator in this valley. Huge victory. Through this vote, the new Board brought a level of respect rarely seen in Page’s local leaders.

Listen to .mp3:

Download the Mac Video .mov (ctrl click and save link as).
Size: 61 mb
Running time: 9:43 minutes

Here is link to the full 30-minute Supervisor discussion, Video and Audio:

Windows Video .wmv (right click and save link as).
Size: 177 mb
Running time: 33 minutes
Mac Video .mov (ctrl click and save link as).
Size: 188 mb
Running time: 33 minutes
Audio .mp3 (right click and save link as or listen in the player below).
Size: 28 mb
Running time: 33 minutes

Let’s briefly remember the timeline of how we got here.

The Page County EDA initiated secret meetings with Fibrowatt behind closed doors during the last year. It’s clear that this is Fibrowatt’s business strategy: make non-disclosure agreements with local leaders in poor rural communities; quietly force through legislation at the state level that gives them guaranteed subsidies, THEN manipulate the local government to pay for the infrastructure of their plant. They strategically make allies with certain local personalities, assuming all other citizens will be quieted.

Luckily six weeks ago, Page County citizens were alerted to Fibrowatt’s maneuvers before the company was ready. Citizens went down to Richmond to make sure Fibrowatt’s legislation was pulled. Delegate Gilbert and Senator Obenshain were extremely supportive of the wishes of the community.

Anti-Fibrowatt Group in Richmond, VA

Anti-Fibrowatt Group in Richmond, VA

Letters began pouring in to the Page News and Courier each week detailing independent research on the proposed 300-ft, smoke stack incinerator. No one who researched the simple facts felt that “Thirty-Dirty” jobs was worth trading in our natural heritage for a future of pollution and debt. Opposition to Fibrowatt came from all corners of the county and spanned the political spectrum. Blogs were started to publicly discuss research being done on Fibrowatt (Hawksbill Cabin Blog, Luray VA Blog). The work done in other communities bullied by Fibrowatt helped tremendously (Yadkin Riverkeepers, NC and Fibrowatch).

The Board of Supervisors then held a public presentation so Fibrowatt’s PR machine could show their product. Over two hundred citizens attended to voice their opposition, based on in-depth research that the internet now allows us to do. Terry Walmsley gave an almost 3-hour pitch on how their incinerator would help the citizen’s lives. Terry got huge laughs when he compared burning chicken poop to solar power. The meeting ended with several Supervisors voicing their opposition. It was a classic and rare case of leaders actually listening to their constituents.

Standing Room Only at Fibrowatt Presentation

It Was Standing Room Only at 3/2/10 Fibrowatt Presentation

This last Tuesday’s meeting was the nail in the coffin for Fibrowatt’s future in Page County.

However, this is just the beginning. During this process of democracy, people brought up serious issues and concerns that have existed here for years. For example, how should large scale poultry producers dispose of their waste? How do we support our local farmers? Where will jobs come from? What exactly is the “Page County lifestyle” and how do we both preserve it and evolve with the rest of the world? There are no easy answers. It’s clear that Fibrowatt’s 300-ft incinerator isn’t the answer, but it’s been a blessing in disguise because now a county-wide conversation has begun on next steps.

Tuesday’s meeting also ended with a brief discussion on the future of the failed Project Clover and the dysfunctional EDA–both are heavy weights around the neck of the county in the form of millions of dollars in future debt. We need to cut loose those who have found their way into positions of power and are actively using these positions for their own selfish purposes. This is not how democracy works.

We have many hardworking, resourceful, smart citizens in Page County. It looks like we’ve finally elected some leaders to match. Solutions will come if we cooperate, share ALL information and fix mistakes quickly until we find what succeeds. Leave your ego at the door. We’re all in this together.

When I watch these videos of Page County citizens and their leaders make decisions intelligently and decisively, I know smart businesses will want to come here. These people aren’t chumps, they’re champions.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Alice Richmond permalink
    March 18, 2010 6:07 am

    Wow! In the words of my 5 year old grandson,

    “Yeah, thas’ what I’m talkin’ about!”

  2. March 18, 2010 6:56 am

    I think that a new day for Page County has begun. Lets all give a hand to the BOS for a job well done !

  3. David Cox permalink
    March 18, 2010 8:53 am

    I want to thank those citizen groups of Page County that took the lead and expended great efforts to educate all of us re: not only the dangers that this particular project posed to Page County residents, but also the process that lead to even entertaining the thought of threatening the County’s environment. I hope that these same groups will now assist our elected leaders (1) in undoing the damage caused to date re: the Clover Project and the questionable purchase of land at an inflated price and (2) in reorganizing the EDA to focus on facilitating jobs that will complement, not erode, Page County’s strengths.

  4. Nancy Good permalink
    March 18, 2010 6:17 pm

    What a great day! I am grateful to the Board of Supervisors for finally listening and standing behind the citizens of Page County:)

  5. Lee McWhorter permalink
    March 20, 2010 5:24 pm

    EVERYONE READING,

    Spread this around: The other day the EDA met and some members were coached {told} how to talk in public about us that are irrational you know the 200 or so of us that were there in the room march 2nd., and those that were there on the 16th. at the meeting of the supervisors.

    Mike orem or uran or uram or what ever old know it all’s name is you know the guy that stanley appointed to the EDA to get rid of him on meeting night. Well he tried to no avail to tell the supes that we, all of us here in the county I guess, produce more dioxin with burn barrels than fibrowatt would produce.

    That did not seem to have any effect so he strolled on off uran style to the EDA, and proceded to tell them the other day about the horrific burn barrels we must have here in PAGE COUNTY VIRGINIA. He spoke of how we are the big time polluters of dioxin.

    Hey wait a minute that sounds like retoric just like the stat about the poultry producers being the largest money maker in page county Virginia . That may be true in stat form but how does it work out in real day to day happenings. We may produce a lot of total dollars of production but how much of it stays here.?? only the part that the poultry contractor {farmer} whatever gets to keep and if that is so great why in gods name are so many of them out of business?????????????????????????

    That’s whats wrong with stats they tell the truth but not the complete whole unadulterated truth. Because the truth is we produce less in total tourism dollars but more of those less total dollars stay right here in page county Virginia.

    So I am asking everyone which they think is best to make more and keep less or make less and keep more.

    At first I would have said make more keep less but that somehow does not make sense to anyone but the EDA. The more I think about it, it does make better sense to make less but keep more and do that more times per year to get a larger total.

    The point is unfortunately not making money but weather telling the EDA lies about the stats of dioxin and where it mostly comes from is and that is where mike uram is goinmg up a rope maybe to hang himself out to dry.

    He is trying to say to the EDA that we irresponsibles and other members of the county {unspecified} who they are, are the ones to blame for all the dioxin problems of the world. Thats kind of like someone telling you eat this its good and you eat it and die.

    I think all of us who oppose this tactic of transferrance of blame should stand up and shout it out “are you full of it or what?” Come on Mike wake up and smell the county, come to your senses or leave on the combat pilots next flight out with the tubby butter bar and the dealer. Then take fibro who with you and put it on trafalmadore or where ever you all land.
    If you all happen to go backward in time, with the combat pilot please do not come to viet nam while I’m there.

    The rest of you out there in Page County Virginia please respond as to weather or not you burn trash in your back yard so we can shut up old motor mouth mike once and for all.

  6. David Uhler permalink
    July 9, 2010 8:28 am

    I live in Lavonia, GA and Fibrowatt is attempting to put a plant here. We, like you, live in a beautiful area. Most of the citizens
    do not want the plant but the city officials do. Would you please
    share some of the data you have on Fibrowatt? We are attempting to
    get ourselves organized. Thank you.

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  1. Videos from March 16th BoS Meeting « Luray Page County, Va Blog

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