Public meets to comment on the future of Aspen power plant

KTRE has learned an investigation into allegations that documents used by Aspen Power to obtain an air quality permit suggests "there is evidence to believe forgery and tampering were committed."

Texas Ranger Sgt. Pete Maskunas also said, "Their job is not to determine whether or not the plant should be built because of these findings, but rather it is to determine who is responsible for these acts and to bring that person, or people, to justice on those charges."

The plant's president, Danny Vines, told KTRE that he is still confident that Aspen Power was not involved in forging any signatures.

Those allegations aside, a contested public hearing held this morning allowed people on both sides of the proposed biomass plant a chance to speak.

What was meant to be a preliminary hearing to schedule a date for the Aspen Power air quality case turned into an open forum for community members to express their views for and against the construction of the proposed biomass plant.

"We're trying to get our neighborhood put back together and Aspen power offers us an opportunity to actually rebuild and put housing and our community back together," said Victor Travis, a member of the Neighborhood Leadership Concil of North Lufkin.

Many members of the crowd said they saw Aspen Power as not only an opportunity to rebuild the community, but to also offer much-needed jobs. But others were convinced that when it comes to health factors, this plant will do more harm than good.

"Anything that says chemicals, I'm opposed to," said Donald Anderson.

Aspen Power president Danny Vines told KTRE that those who attended the prior public meetings are well informed of the actual safety of the plant.

"We probably have one of the best educated community as to biomass," Vines said. "Because of those 40 Wednesday meetings that lasted anywhere from an hour to two-and-a-half hours each Wednesday night."

Unlike today's meeting, the next hearing will not be an open forum. Only the six designated parties chosen today for the opposition, and three designated witnesses for aspen power will be allowed to speak. The hearing, however, will be open to the public to attend.