CARTHAGE, Mo. – An attorney for a Carthage resident suing the owner of the Renewable Environmental Solutions plant say they will file a motion in federal bankruptcy court in New York to lift a stay that has stopped the suit in its tracks.
Attorney John Tomlinson with the Beasley Allen Law Firm, based in Montgomery, Ala., said he plans to file a motion on behalf of Cynthia Sundy, Carthage, to let her lawsuit against Changing World Technology Inc., proceed even though the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in March.
“Once they file for bankruptcy, you basically have to go to the bankruptcy court to lift the stay that’s been in place now,” Tomlinson said. “Once they file bankruptcy, there was an automatic stay in the state court in Missouri. What we expect to do is file a motion in bankruptcy court to lift the stay and if we are successful in getting that stay lifted then we can proceed with the lawsuit again in state court.”
Changing World Technologies, Inc., based in New York, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March after an attempt to raise $100 million from selling stock in the company failed in February.
At the same time, the company shut down the plant in Carthage and laid off 49 workers.
The company filed paperwork to go public in August 2008, but the initial public offering never happened.
Changing World Technologies owned the Renewable Environmental Solutions plant, located on the east side of the Carthage Industrial Bottoms area and took the remains of turkeys processed at the nearby Butterball plant and processed them in a way that mimicked what the Earth does over millions of years to leaves, plants and other biological material to create crude oil.
The results of what the company called the thermal conversion process was an oil that could be burned in furnaces and diesel generators along with material that could be used as fertilizer.
The plant was also blamed for causing terrible odors that wafted over downtown Carthage soon after it opened in 2004.
After hundreds of complaints, the state fined the company $125,000 and ordered it closed temporarily in 2005.
The company spent millions on technology to eliminate any odor coming from the plant.
Since then, Changing World Technologies President and Founder Brian Appel has consistently denied that it was the source of odors coming from the Carthage Bottoms area, but Sundy filed a lawsuit seeking class action status in 2007.
Her lawsuit claimed odors from the plant had “injured area residents and property owners by diminishing their right to enjoy their property and diminished their property values.”
Tomlinson said the plaintiff had filed motions seeking class status and saying the class could include as many as 6,375 people in 2,406 homes in Carthage. He said the defendants had also filed a number of motions, including one seeking a change of venue.
“The judge had not ruled on any of those motions when RES filed for bankruptcy,” Tomlinson said. “When they filed for bankruptcy, the state court judge automatically and immediately said this case is going to be stayed until I hear otherwise, so he hasn’t ruled on any of that.”
Appel told The Kansas City Star in a story last month that he hoped to reopen the Carthage plant sometime in the future and use grease, corn and other feedstocks in place of turkey offal.
Tomlinson he couldn’t say whether it was worth it to proceed now that the plant is closed and Changing World Technologies has declared bankruptcy.
“That is something that we won’t know until we try,” Tomlinson said. “I think at this point that is our best option to try to get the stay lifted to get some kind of resolution in the state case because we can’t do anything otherwise.”