FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Senior Regional Representative
Socially Responsible Agriculture Project
Assateague Coastal Trust
January 11, 2022
Salisbury, Maryland—Nine nonprofits are asking the Salisbury-Wicomico County Planning and Zoning Commission to reschedule and re-advertise a public hearing scheduled for January 20, 2022, on Earthcare, LLC’s proposed gasification project.
The organizations—Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP), Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT), Wicomico County NAACP, Food & Water Watch (FWW), Namati, CATA – The Farmworkers Support Committee, Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs (CCAIC), Clean Water Action (CWA), and Chesapeake Physicians For Social Responsibility—are asking that Earthcare’s special exception for “composting” hearing be rescheduled at a location that allows social distancing for large groups, and that translators be available to accommodate the communities’ large Haitian-Creole and Spanish-speaking population.
The hearing’s current location is not large enough for a crowd to socially distance, the nonprofits argue, making in-person participation impossible without endangering public health.
And while the hearing will stream online and allow opportunity for public comments, the nonprofits say the communities’ large non-English speaking population will be unable to participate without proper translation.
“We wish to provide every single member of the community a meaningful chance to participate in the public process,” said Maria Payan, SRAP senior regional representative. “We fear their ability to do so will be hindered by the absence of a translator.”
Earthcare’s proposed gasification project sparked controversy among locals due to concerns about the facility’s public health and environmental impacts. Studies show gasification plants release heavy metals, tar production, and toxic gases into the environment, causing air pollution linked to various health effects.
Payan submitted a Public Information Act (PIA) request December 10, 2021, asking for information about the proposed facility. According to Maryland state code, the PIA requires agencies to “disclose public records that aren’t otherwise exempt,” but the county failed to deliver documents as required.
The only documents provided by the county were the published advertisement for the hearing, a sign-up sheet for interested parties, and a Zoom link for the meeting.
These documents are insufficient to understand the full scope of the proposed gasification project, which is being funded by a $2.2 million grant from Maryland Department of Agriculture.
“These polluters admit they are indeed not composters,” said Monica Brooks, environmental justice committee chair for Wicomico County NAACP. “Why should they be given the opportunity to dump their poultry waste onto already overburdened communities?”
“Community engagement as well as full transparency of the proposed Earthcare facility should be of utmost importance and priority,” said Gabby Ross, Assateague Coastkeeper for Assateague Coastal Trust. “These overburdened neighborhoods of Wicomico County have had enough of getting dumped on by their local legislators and planning committees. Earthcare has received millions of dollars of Maryland taxpayer money to further pollute and impact the health and well-being of the residents.”