Press Release

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Air Pollution Risks, Residents’ Concerns Ignored in Ohio EPA’s Decision to Approve SOBE Permit in Youngstown

For Immediate Release:
Feb 15, 2024

Marisa Twigg, or 614-487-5837

YOUNGSTOWN, OH — Despite sustained opposition from residents and a 12-month moratorium on waste pyrolysis operations passed by Youngstown City Council, yesterday the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) issued a permit-to-install for SOBE Thermal Energy Systems, LLC. The state’s decision is worrisome given the U.S. EPA’s considerable environmental justice and civil rights concerns outlined in an email to the Ohio EPA in September 2023.

The significant unknowns regarding the advanced gasification technology proposed to fuel the facility implicate serious public health uncertainties for the surrounding community. Given these factors, the Ohio Environmental Council continues to join the voices of local residents, activists and officials in opposition to the proposed future operations of SOBE Thermal.

In our September 2023 comments to the Ohio EPA, we emphasized that the agency has authority to deny the SOBE permit under OAC 3745-31-05(H) — the agency may consider social and economic impacts of air contaminants, water pollutants or other adverse environmental impacts that may result from issuance of the permit. The Ohio EPA claims it is “obligated” to issue a permit, but it has legally permitted discretion under the law to deny the permit.

The following quote can be attributed, in whole or in part, to Chris Colόn, Northeast Ohio Regional Director for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC):

“We are deeply disappointed that the Ohio EPA chose to grant SOBE this permit. Every Ohioan, no matter what county you live in or how much money you make, needs safe air to breathe. The Ohio EPA’s decision to allow SOBE’s significant expansion follows the historical trend of environmental injustices in Northeast Ohio, putting Youngstown residents’ health at risk — all while guaranteeing long-term climate impacts as SOBE will produce more greenhouse gas emissions than it currently emits with natural gas.

“Corporations should not take priority over the needs of Ohio’s hard-working communities, but it’s clear that the voices of residents and local activists have been ignored. We amplify their calls to the Ohio EPA to reconsider this permit. Additionally, we call on the Mayor of Youngstown to enforce the existing zoning code by informing SOBE that their proposed expansion is not permitted in a mixed-use community zone.”


The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is the state’s most comprehensive and effective environmental advocate for a healthier, more sustainable Ohio. The OEC develops and ensures the implementation of forward-thinking, science-based, pragmatic solutions to secure healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home.