Editor: After reading that Rockwool, the fiberglass insulation plant being built in Ranson, WV, was going to migrate to natural gas instead of coal, I was initially encouraged. After all, they had planned to burn 84-97 tons of coal a day, sending pollutants into the atmosphere and over the border to Loudoun County and beyond.
Then I read this comment by Michael Zarin, Rockwool’s vice president of group communications: “The emissions are going to go down or be neutral across the board.”
That was not the most encouraging declaration. And the more I looked into it, the less encouraged I got. For instance, when asked on their Facebook page whether the switch to natural gas means they won’t be burning any coal, there was no response. And their letter to the West Virginia EPA notifying them of the change claims, “The adjustment in use of raw materials will result in no change in emissions.” They also contradict themselves and in that same letter say that ”the change to firing only on natural gas will be a reduction to regulated air pollutants.”
But some studies claim that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of natural gas are even higher than coal, to say nothing of the potential for groundwater contamination.
Many Rockwool critics think they are just using natural gas to start the furnace, and that burning coal will ultimately be the backbone of the manufacturing process. According to the company’s PR and social media, “We’re planning to start up factory operations using natural gas instead of coal.” ”Start up” does leave some room for doubt. You can’t blame their critics for thinking Rockwool is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
Rockwool likes to portray its operations as environmentally friendly, because the insulation they manufacture combats climate change by keeping homes from using as much power to heat or cool them. But there seems to be a lack of transparency when it comes to the environmental impact of its manufacturing process.
Living in Loudoun County, you might think this is a West Virginia issue, since that’s where the plant will be sited. But air pollution knows no boundaries. We need to be vigilant and informed.
Bill Replogle Leesburg, Virginia