MOUNT GILEAD — The legal battle continues between a company that processes municipal solid waste and a group of Westfield Township residents who strongly oppose the operation.
A trial date has been set in Morrow Common Pleas Court regarding Emerald Bioenergy (also known as Renergy).
A motion hearing was held Monday, Sept. 14. At the center of the hearing was whether individuals representing the company’s management could be held liable, namely its CEO Alexander Ringler and W. Michael Oberfield, Cari Oberfield, chief operating officers.
Judge Tom C. Elkin dismissed the case without prejudice and ordered a two-day bench trial to begin at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 14. Discovery cutoff will be Dec. 1.
In the judgment entry, the court wrote that “defendants assert in their motion that the plaintiff failed to allege any facts to establish why the corporate veil of Emerald Bioenergy, LLC should be pierced.”
Renergy’s legal counsel Trevor Alexander spoke at the hearing.
“The subpoenas themselves are flawed. We sought to quash all the subpoenas,” Alexander told the court.
County Prosecutor Charles Howland, representing Westfield Township, explained why he sought the ruling.
“This is a hands-on operation by the Oberfields,” he said. “They should be held personally liable.”
Howland said his office “had a difficult time finding” the owners in order to serve the subpoenas.
About a dozen Westfield Township residents stood in the waiting area outside the South Courtroom during the hearing.
Renergy puts organic material into biodigestion tanks where it is broken down to produce a methane-based biogas. The company has come under criticism over the past year and a half from local residents who are upset with the strong odor and increased traffic near the biodigester facility.
The company said in an Aug. 19 news release that it will stop accepting municipal solid waste at its Dovetail and Emerald facilities as of October. Emerald is the one located in Morrow County that opened in September 2013. Dovetail operates in southwest Ohio.
A cease and desist order was issued by the county prosecutor’s office in September 2019. The prosecutor said at that time the bio-digester violates township zoning regulations.
The company filed an appeal and has continued to operate.