By Ryan Morden, contributing writer
Oswego NY – Bion Environmental Technologies is trying to win the support of the Oswego County community to build a beef cattle and ethanol production mega project in Schroeppel.
Bion has its work cut out for itself, if the audience that heard its pitch is any indication.
At a forum held at SUNY Oswegoâ€™s Campus Center Wednesday night, officials from the company gave an hour-long technical presentation to a skeptical audience and took questions.
â€œThe community has to be on board, the community has to understand what this is,â€ said Dominic Bassani, Bion’s Vice President for Strategic Affairs.
They want to create what they call a sustainable operation that processes beef cattle and creates ethanol from the manure. They say the operation will create nearly 600 jobs.
Bassani and two other officials, Jeff Kapell and Dr. James Morris, call the technology new. The unknown variables surrounding the novel idea didn’t sit well with some who spoke at the forum.
â€œThis is beyond the experience of Oswego County,â€ said Nancy Weber, President of the Oswego County Farm Bureau.
Weber asked how Bion would handle a potential disease outbreak among 14,000 cattle. Bassani mistook her question and tried to answer to the environmental impact. He kept saying that 14,000 beef cattle is the equivalent of 500 dairy cattle in terms of environmental impact.
The audience groaned in annoyance, and Weber asked her question again, eventually asking for answers in a â€œyesâ€ or â€œnoâ€ form.
As to whether Bion has a plan to address disease spread among several thousand cattle, Bassani simply answered, â€œNo.â€
â€œItâ€™s about bringing in expertise,â€ said Bassani, explaining how he would address concerns raised by citizens of Oswego County.
â€œBion is a technology company and a developer,â€ and not a farming company, said Bassani.
Oswego County Legislator Barbara Brown, who operates a farm, and others are concerned that Bion is underestimating the climate of the region.
â€œThey donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re doing,â€ said Brown.
She says theyâ€™re unprepared to handle unexpected natural events, such as the recent earthquake and tornadoes.
Similar concerns caused strong opposition to Bion’s plans in St. Lawrence County, which the company abandoned in early 2009.Â Oswego County’s Environmental Management Council reviewed Bion’s plans and said there wasn’t enough information to say whether the project would be good or bad.
Jeff Kapell, Vice President for Project Development and Renewals, says the next step will be to seek out specific sites in Oswego County and to begin environmental impact studies.