Rockwool Information

Community Information on the Rockwool Project in Ranson, W.Va.

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The Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBOE) sent the below letter in response to a proposed agreement with ERM (Environmental Resources Management, Inc.), in relation to the placement of air monitoring systems on Jefferson County School (JCS) property. The agreement relates to the Rockwool Plant currently under construction in Ranson. The JCBOE appreciates the proposed $1 million investment from Rockwool to place these monitors around the county. While the agreement was not sought by the JCBOE, members requested several conditions be put in place if the monitors are to be located on JCS property.

Letter to ERM from JCBOE

UPDATE Jan. 24, 2019: The Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) selection committee recently completed the process of vetting the application of Gradient to ensure that it met all the criteria established in the selection rubric.   Following that determination, the next step identified in the process was the completion of due diligence and subsequent contract negotiation.   
    During this due diligence process, Gradient withdrew their proposal.
Given these events, we are currently re-evaluating our search process to determine the most effective way to move forward. The JCBOE shares the public’s frustration at this news, but it is the only way to ensure that the company selected to complete the assessment has met all the rigorous standards that have been set forward.   JCS appreciates the patience and understanding of the public as we work with care and due diligence to meet the requirements of the JCS Board.   

Nov. 30, 2018: After discussion in executive session regarding legal matters, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted to return to open session and authorized the following action:

The Jefferson County Board of Education has been provided a summons and named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Jefferson County Vision.  The Jefferson County BoE cannot represent itself in Circuit Court, as the law requires that entities have counsel in civil actions in Circuit Court.  Therefore, the Board hereby directs the Superintendent to engage legal counsel for the express purpose of protecting the interests of the Jefferson County students and taxpayers represented by the JCS Board.    Legal counsel will monitor the progression of the lawsuit and inform the JCS Board of any legally required action in the commission of their duties.  The engagement of legal counsel does not represent JCS Board opposition to the intended outcomes of the Jefferson County Vision lawsuit.  

The Jefferson County Board of Education (JC BoE) thanks the parents of our students and the residents of Jefferson County who have appeared and spoken passionately regarding the Rockwool industrial manufacturing facility proposed in the City of Ranson.  Your comments are both insightful and valued. You are correct to raise your concerns to us about the welfare of your children, grandchildren, and family members attending our school system.
As we have throughout this process, we continuing to address questions you have raised as answers are available.  The latest round of questions relate to our engagement of legal counsel; our role in the Rockwool project; and what authority the JC BoE has to address your concerns.
First, we take your concerns seriously.  The JC BoE has employed the law firm of Reed Smith LLP to review and provide legal advice regarding the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (“Pilot”) Agreement. We selected Reed Smith based on their expertise in economic development and incentive agreements.  The Reed Smith team representing this Board includes attorneys licensed and practicing in the State of West Virginia. 
The Reed Smith team has been provided and reviewed the correspondence issued by the legal teams for Jefferson County Vision, Inc., the Jefferson County Development Authority (“JCDA”), and Rockwool.  On October 8, 2018, we met in executive session with our lead attorney and received legal advice on our options with respect to the Pilot Agreement.  Because of the potential for litigation against the JC BoE pertaining to the options discussed and the attorney-client privilege, we are not at liberty to divulge that advice or our options at this point.  However, we continue to actively evaluate and pursue options that we believe are in the best interest of our students and staff.  
As you are already aware, we have pressed Rockwool for an independent Human Health Risk Assessment (“Assessment”), and Rockwool has cooperated by agreeing to that Assessment.    We believe the Assessment is critical to our decision making process.  Transparency is also vital to everyone in our community, so information related to the Assessment and the Rockwool project continue to be made available by the Board to the public .  
In addition to the Assessment, on multiple occasions, the JC BoE has formally requested that Rockwool impose a moratorium on construction activities during the approximately three months needed to conduct the Assessment.  That request has been declined and we have continued to press Rockwool on this point.  
Second, our participation in the Rockwool project has been limited to signing the Pilot Agreement. This was uncharted territory for us.  Our primary focus is our children and the quality education our teachers and staff strive to provide. The Rockwool project is the first economic development project that has approached the JC BoE for a Pilot Agreement. Our expertise and exposure to private economic development is limited. With all candor, this has been a learning experience for the Board. 

At the time the JCDA approached the JC BoE to present the Pilot Agreement in September of 2017, Rockwool had already publicly announced its intention to locate the Facility in Jefferson Orchards.  We have subsequently learned that the City of Ranson had already re-zoned Jefferson Orchards to allow for the Facility prior to our vote and additional economic incentives were also negotiated that do not involve the Board.  
Among the economic incentives, the JCDA agreed to acquire the Rockwool facility and land.  This action is a very significant point.  Under West Virginia law, all JCDA property is exempt from local taxes. The JC BoE has no authority to direct the JCDA nor alter the JCDA tax status.
Third, you have understandably expressed concerns over the location of Rockwool in relation to our schools, especially North Jefferson Elementary.  The JC BoE, as you are aware, has no power to zone and no power to issue building permits.  We have learned in this process that only the Legislature and the City have the power to set limits on the location of facilities as it pertains to schools.  We would encourage you to voice your concerns on these points to the City of Ranson and your State representatives and senators. 
We appreciate the passion that you have brought before the JC BoE. We are writing to help everyone understand the limitations on the Board’s powers as well as the fact that the JC BoE must proceed cautiously under the circumstances.  We continue to collect data, evaluate the situation, and weigh our options.
Finally, we want to address the recent comments of a representative of the JCDA.  This Board rejects and will not condone any comments which attempt to marginalize your concerns about the safety, health, and welfare of your children.  This Board has been presented with well-informed, thought-provoking commentary from the residents it serves.  We have taken the outlined steps to date based on your legitimate input.  We intend to act with as much transparency as possible to keep you informed as we navigate this process with the sole focus on our student and employee health and safety.    

The Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBOE) would like to take the opportunity to update the community on a number of requests we have made to the Rockwool Company that is building a manufacturing plant in Ranson, W.Va.  As you may know the JCBOE has been working to obtain the most accurate information about the facility and its potential impact on the community possible.  Through numerous meetings with local officials, state representatives, and representatives from Rockwool, the JCBOE has managed to accumulate a wealth of data that is being shared on the Jefferson County Schools (JCS) website, There has also been a tremendous amount of input from concerned citizens through email, face-to-face encounters, and during recent JCBOE meetings. 

The focus at this time is an independent Human Health Risk Assessment (a) the JCBOE is facilitating. Per the board’s request, the assessment must be done by an independent third party so it will have validity for the citizens of Jefferson County, and the company doing the work must be selected by a committee that includes Jefferson County citizens. Rockwool has agreed to those terms. The following action steps are in process:

1. Rockwool and Jefferson County Board of Education have agreed on the qualifications (b) that a company/scientist must possess to be considered for the independent Human Health Risk Assessment.   Chief among these is the presence of a licensed toxicologist on staff.   The focus of the HHRA is the effect upon children and the evaluator must have more than a general environmental background. They must also have the expertise to provide a critical analysis of the effects on children.  

2. Jefferson County Board of Education developed a list of companies and they were reviewed for compliance with the criteria and experience.  Companies meeting the criteria will receive a letter of solicitation from the JCBoE inviting them to bid on completing the HHRA. 

3. A committee will review the HHRA applicants with a rubric for completion.  Both parties have agreed upon the composition of the committee:  1 Rockwool representative, 1 School Board member, Dr. Hoff (crisis plan coordinator for JCS), 1 JCS employee, 2 JCS parents (1 elementary/1 secondary), and 1 JCS high school student.   The Superintendent will serve as the secretary for the committee.  We anticipate having a portal on the website for applications up by Monday, October 15th.

While the JCBOE is pleased that Rockwool has agreed to these terms, they are disappointed that the company has refused numerous requests from the board to halt all construction at the Ranson site until the Human Health Risk Assessment is completed. 

After careful consideration of Rockwool’s response, the JCBOE has engaged legal counsel to begin exploring the ramifications of withdrawing from the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Program the previous board entered into last October. That step was taken during the Sept. 10, 2018 JCBOE meeting. The JCBOE is receiving legal advisement in Executive Session on Monday, October 8th.

Meanwhile the public is asking about JCBOE member Gary Kable’s role as the board liaison to the Jefferson County Development Authority (JCDA). Mr. Kable is currently not a voting member. Per the JCDA by-laws, a voting member must be appointed by the Jefferson County Commission (JCC). It has never been the practice for the JCBOE liaison to have a vote. JCS has sent a letter to the JCC inquiring about their intent regarding Mr. Kable’s status on the JCDA board.  

The JCBOE is also keenly aware of concern about emergency plans at the Rockwool facility should some sort of accident occur. While JCBOE cannot speak to the internal procedures at Rockwool, they can comment on the steps taken within the school system to ensure that students and staff are prepared for a number of different scenarios. 

Each school year, the State of West Virginia requires schools to conduct ten fire evacuation drills. In Jefferson County Schools, 12 are conducted. Two separate drills are held to practice emergency plans for events like tornadoes, hazardous materials incidents, medical emergencies.  At least one of these Shelter-in-Place drills must take place during class. 

Jefferson County Schools also partners with local, state, and national law enforcement agencies when conducting our safety prevention, planning and drills.  These trainings also prepare faculty to handle the potential for an Active Shooter/Hostile Intruder in our schools. 
It is the intent of the JC BoE to utilize information from the HHRA to update our crisis plans at our schools should the information warrant.  

Since the beginning of this process, the JCBOE has been seeking the facts.  We value our role of modeling positive civic engagement for the next generation.   The board appreciates the support and comments from the community as we navigate the situation.


(a) A Human Health Risk Assessment is defined as the process to estimate the nature and probability of adverse health effects in humans who may be exposed to chemicals in contaminated environmental media, now or in the future.  Human health risk assessment includes 4 basic steps:

Step 1 - Hazard Identification
Examines whether a stressor has the potential to cause harm to humans and/or ecological systems, and if so, under what circumstances.

 Step 2 - Dose-Response Assessment
Examines the numerical relationship between exposure and effects.

 Step 3 - Exposure Assessment
Examines what is known about the frequency, timing, and levels of contact with a stressor.

 Step 4 - Risk Characterization
Examines how well the data support conclusions about the nature and extent of the risk from exposure to environmental stressors.

(b) The individual conducting the Human Health Risk Assessment must be a qualified toxicology, air and environmental expert who possesses the following:
Advanced educational degree in environmental studies, chemistry, environmental science, atmospheric chemistry, or related scientific field; 

Experience in toxicology and related theoretical and practical applications; 

Expertise in air quality and environmental health, including hazard identification; exposure assessment; inhalation risk assessment; particulate matter; and risk characterization; 

Strong familiarity and experience with air quality standards, including Federal regulations; 

Background/experience working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; 

Experience in conducting health risk assessments for public and private sectors in diverse regional geographies, thereby establishing a significant frame of comparative reference;  

Successful experience in completing comprehensive health risk assessments related to exposure and potential health impacts on the general population, including children; and 

Retains a neutral position and has refrained from interjecting opinion on the project under review.

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