The Crestone Eagle, January 2003:

San Luis Valley has a close brush with PVC plant
by Linda Spade

Thanks to Thomas Peay, host of the KRZA radio show “Collective Conscience”, many communities in the San Luis Valley have become aware of Eastside Energy Corporation of Alamosa and its plan to produce poly vinyl chloride (PVC). The award-winning documentary “Blue Vinyl” follows the lifecycle of PVC from production to disposal, illustrating its health hazards.

Poly vinyl chloride is used to make everything from spring water bottles to cooking oil containers; it’s in our shower curtains and in our blood bags. It is theorized that vinyl chloride is absorbed in body fats and carried to the brain resulting in brain cancer. Seventy-five percent of PVC is used in the construction industry for sewer pipe, siding for housing, window frames, wallpaper and flooring. Contact with PVC has been shown to dissolve the bones of PVC plant workers. It can cause brain and liver cancer, endometriosis, neurological damage, immune system damage, respiratory problems and birth defects.

PVC is used to make children’s toys, with up to 40% additives to make them soft and pliable. Big companies like Mattel have phased out PVC. One hundred and twenty-two countries have phased out PVC production.

Last February, Eastside Energy published an ambitious proposal for a San Luis Valley “Industrial and Research Park” on land leased outside Blanca, adjacent to the Denver and Rio Grande rail line. Seemingly a “green” corporation, Eastside Energy proposed a biomass plant, solar cell roofing, laminated “logs”, fuel cell production, aquatic farming, energy efficient lighting and, oh yeah, poly vinyl chloride production. In fact, Warren Miller, former plant manager of Eastside Energy, claimed “vinyl chloride was to be the major profit generating by-product of the plant that was to be marketed to Dow Corning.”

Projected figures calculated to light up the eyes of Costilla County and the city of Alamosa were included in the proposal: $15 million in payroll, $300,000 in sales tax revenue, $500,000 annually in fuel taxes. In one of the poorest counties in Colorado, such figures could be alluring, yet the commission and citizens tend to be astute and ask questions.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of Eastside Energy’s proposal is dioxin as a by-product. Dioxin is the most potent carcinogen known to science. “Dioxin migrates to colder regions in the atmosphere” according to Lisa Finaldi of Greenpeace. Inuit mothers in the arctic can no longer breast feed their infants due to bio-accumulation of dioxin.

Proposing to fuel its biomass plant with wood chips, Eastside Energy stockpiled an estimated three thousand tons on its site east of Blanca. Joe Davis, president of Eastside, now claims that the wood chips are to produce compost and no permit is needed for the agriculturally zoned land. Costilla County recently filed a complaint at the district court in San Luis petitioning for a halt to the stockpiling and for its removal.

On November 26th, the Valley Courier of Alamosa reported that Eastside Energy “is alive and well, with a thriving office staff in Alamosa”. On December 20th, the Valley Courier reported that Joe Davis, in an attempt to acquire money to meet payroll, had gone to an auto pawnshop. This doesn’t bode well for a company that would need $26 million to start a biomass plant. It appears that Eastside Energy has been bouncing payroll checks all over the San Luis Valley since mid-November and about 70% of Eastside Energy employees have walked off the job. Some of them have been “evicted from their homes and had their utilities disconnected”, according to La Sierra, Costilla County’s newspaper. One former employee applied for unemployment and was told Eastside Energy had no compensation account with the state of Colorado. Nor does it have a license to do business in Colorado, other than the retail license posted by the front door of its office, though there is no product for sale in evidence.

Joe Davis’ criminal record has been following him around like a bad smell since 1980. He was convicted of loan fraud by a federal grand jury in Arizona and served a ten month prison sentence in 1980/1981.

In 1983 he was the manager of Sonora Mining Corporation’s Jamestown Gold Project in Sonora, California. He secured mining permits and property for the company, but was terminated after one year. At the time, he was criticized for “using intimidation and ultimatums rather than fact in negotiations with the county”.

In 1990, Davis was in Glenwood Springs, Colorado serving as spokesman and engineering consultant for a controversial coal gasification and co-generation plant proposal. In the same year he was convicted of theft and is currently on parole in the State of Colorado until February, 2005, for an undisclosed charge.

When Thomas Peay asked Lisa Finaldi of Greenpeace what she would say to a community that is threatened to have a vinyl chloride plant put in its back yard, she replied “Do everything you can to stop it. It’s a magnet to other chemical facilities. Before you know it, you’re living in an environmental war zone. Nobody understands the implications of buying a shower curtain.”

(For further information on the poly vinyl chloride industry, see www.pbs.org/tradesecrets/program.html for Bill Moyers’ PBS show)

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