Congressman to get update on proposed Gadsden rendering plant this week

Local News

GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — This week, U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt will meet with Federal Aviation Administration representatives for an update on a controversial rendering plant proposed near the Gadsden airport.

Pilgrim’s Pride wants to purchase land from the Gadsden Airport Authority in hopes of building a chicken rendering plant that would convert chicken parts into protein used for pet food.

The FAA needs to weigh in on the project because of its’ proximity to the airport. If the FAA approves the plan, the GAA could sell the land to the poultry company.

The plans call for the property to be rezoned, which would need approval from the Gadsden City Council.
Congressman Aderholt represents neighbors in Etowah County and has been fielding concerns from many this year.

“I have great concerns because of the concerns of my constituents. Obviously, I am elected to represent the people of the 4th district including those in Etowah County and dealing with the FAA, I want to make sure that their voice is heard,” said Aderholt.

In addition to potential odors, Aderholt said there is also fear that the plant would attract wildlife to an area that is close to where planes land and take off.

“At this point, I would be very concerned about this project moving forward,” said Aderholt.

Aderholt asked for a meeting after representatives from Pilgrim’s Pride shared the results of an aeronautical study that was used to look at safe and efficient use of navigable airspace by aircraft.

In a statement last week, the company claimed the FAA letter and the study showed the agency did not object to the construction:

“The FAA has confirmed what we have stated all along: A state-of-the-art pet food ingredient plant would have no impact on local airport traffic. We remain confident that we can partner to help Gadsden grow with great-paying jobs and local investments that will benefit the community. We believe this ruling from the Federal Aviation Authority only strengthens our proposal before Gadsden Airport Authority.”

Cameron Bruett, Director of Corporate Affairs for Pilgrim’s on Oct. 22

Gadsden Attorney Christie Knowles disagrees with Bruett’s assessment.

“The FAA even said this doesn’t mean we consent, Pilgrim’s holds it out as if it is some type of consent or agreement by the FAA,” said Knowles.

In excerpts from the FAA letter, the agency states that the study does not constitute FAA approval:

The proposed construction is located on airport-owned land that is currently obligated for aeronautical purposes. Additionally, the FAA notified the sponsors in January 2021 of concerns that the proposed plant is a potential wildlife attractant and appears to be an incompatible development near an airport.

That being said, the FAA conducted aeronautical studies for the proposal. This determination does not preempt the airport sponsor’s federal obligations and does not constitute FAA approval for the physical development involved in the proposal. It is a determination with respect to the safe and efficient use of navigable airspace by aircraft.

Neighbors who live near the airport cannot believe they are still without a resolution after almost a year of fighting.

“Every day I am like, we pray when are we going to get an answer,” Christa Nelson asked.

Nelson has lived in her home for the past 18 years but has spent the better part of the last year worrying about the future.

“We planned on completely paying off this house and selling it and moving close to the river, and with this rendering plant, I don’t know how that’s going to happen,” said Nelson.

The proposed site is in the city of Gadsden, but most of the surrounding homes and businesses are in the city limits of nearby Rainbow City.

Residents there feel powerless since the issue is in another jurisdiction.

While Pilgrim’s Pride has promised about 100 jobs and millions in economic benefits for the area, it’s been hard to find vocal support for the project, that was recruited by the state of Alabama and economic development leaders in Etowah County.

Knowles can’t understand why no one has pulled the plug on the project that only seems to be met with opposition.

“The city of Gadsden, the IDA, and the airport authority continue to linger with this fight and not tell Pilgrim’s to stop this and to go away,” said Knowles.

CBS 42 reached out to Pilgrim’s Pride for an updated interview with a company spokesperson. A representative was not available Wednesday, but issued the following statement:

Cameron Bruett, Director of Corporate Affairs for Pilgrim’s”It is unfortunate that so much misinformation and falsehoods from outside Gadsden have delayed this state-of-the-art project from bringing great-paying jobs and millions in economic development to the city. It is also unfortunate that some have deliberately stood in the way of easing the food supply chain issues that have led to higher food prices and shortages, which this new facility will help alleviate.

Some from outside Gadsden once claimed Pilgrim’s already owned the airport land, which is now proven to be false. Those same individuals also stated the FAA would not allow the plant to be built. The FAA provided confirmation last week that it would not object to the project being built.

Simply put: Pilgrim’s remains committed to growing Gadsden with great-paying jobs and local investments that will benefit the community and Alabama’s agricultural industry.”

Cameron Bruett, Director of Corporate Affairs for Pilgrim’s

Representatives for U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt said he will meet with FAA leaders the week of November 15. Stay with CBS 42 for updates.

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