YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A group of concerned citizens have written a letter to Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown and law director Jeff Limbian, asking them to consider a new way to provide energy to downtown Youngstown.

The SOBE Concerned Citizens presented the letter at Thursday’s Public Utilities Committee meeting. It’s an attempt to get the city to take a different direction when it comes to the energy source that will heat 35 businesses downtown.

“We have a unique opportunity to ensure the minority community of Youngstown has better health outcomes, and our revitalized downtown has good quality air,” the letter signed by 44 people states.

Earlier this year, SOBE Energy Solutions purchased the Steam Heat Plant on Youngstown’s North Avenue. Pending approval from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), SOBE plans to use a conversion technology that converts tires and plastic into steam.

Residents have taken issue with this, questioning the negative environmental and health impacts of this process. 

At Thursday’s meeting, Lynn Anderson, with the concerned citizens, voiced her concerns and said the chemicals that will be emitted with SOBE’s process are potentially cancer-causing chemicals. She wants the city to take a different route and partner with Youngstown State University instead.

In 2016, YSU installed three boilers into their utility building which have been used to heat buildings on campus. According to the letter sent by SOBE Concerned Citizens, only one out of the three boilers is being utilized. Now, Anderson and others are asking the city to partner with YSU to use the remaining two boilers to heat the downtown buildings instead of allowing SOBE to do so. 

But Limbian says it’s not that simple.

“Informationally, I think it’s very good that we’re starting this conversation, but this is an EPA issue. You know, and if the EPA gives them a permit, you know we’ll slowly and steadily learn more and more about it,” Limbian said.

Limbian also said it’s not certain the necessary piping and infrastructure is in place in order to run the energy from YSU’s campus to downtown Youngstown. He also made the point that YSU is a university, not an energy provider.

In fact, although YSU currently runs its own boilers, according to the school’s paper the Jambar, the university is considering switching to SOBE for its steam once it is up and running. 

SOBE is still waiting on permit approvals from the Ohio EPA.

First News did reach out to YSU on the topic but as of yet has not heard back.