FAA 'does not object' to rendering plant construction plan, but it doesn't mean approval

·4 min read

Pilgrim’s Pride on Friday said it has received notification that the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t object — with certain provisions — to its proposal to construct an animal parts rendering plant on Gadsden Airport Authority property.

But while the company views this as a win, it doesn’t mean approval for the project, and the attorney for plant opponents says this result is not unexpected and is not a sign the FAA is giving Pilgrim’s Pride the OK. Instead, it is one step in a long process.

More: Running down the rendering plant saga so far: Here are some of the major developments

Pilgrim’s Pride had filed a Form 7460 — “Notice of Proposed Construction or Alteration” — with the FAA.

The letter it received in response — which was emailed to The Times — begins with the statement that the proposed construction would be on airport-owned land currently obligated for aeronautical purposes, and adds that the administration notified airport sponsors in January of concerns that the proposed plant is a potential wildlife attractant and appears to be an incompatible development near an airport.

This aerial photo shows the Gadsden Airport Authority property on which Pilgrim's Pride wants to construct what it calls a "state-of-the-art" animal parts rendering plant.
This aerial photo shows the Gadsden Airport Authority property on which Pilgrim's Pride wants to construct what it calls a "state-of-the-art" animal parts rendering plant.

“That being said, the FAA conducted aeronautical studies for the proposal,” the letter continues. “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.

More: Judge's order: Plaintiffs claim ADEM visits made after business leaders opposed plant

“It is a determination with respect to the safe and efficient use of navigable airspace by aircraft. Based on the airspace review, we do not object to the construction described in this proposal provided …,” the letter states, then details the requirements.

The required provisions include complying with FAA Advisory Circulars regarding “Operational Safety on Airports During Construction” and “Hazardous Wildlife Attractants on or Near Airports.” Also required: “A Wildlife Hazard Analysis should be performed by a qualified person and a Wildlife Mitigation Plan should be developed and updated on a regular basis.”

Separate notices to the FAA would be required for any construction equipment such as temporary cranes with limits exceeding the height and lateral dimensions in the proposal.

In making this determination, the letter says the FAA has considered matters such as:

  • The effects the proposal would have on existing or planned traffic patterns of neighboring airports;

  • The effects it would have on the existing airspace structure and projected programs of the FAA;

  • The effects it would have on the safety of people and property on the ground;

  • The effects that existing or proposed manmade objects (on file with the FAA) and known natural objects within the affected area would have on the airport proposal.

“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,” Pilgrim’s Pride Director of Corporate Affairs Cameron Bruett said in a news release. “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 (FAA) only strengthens our proposal before (the) Gadsden Airport Authority.”

However, opposition attorney Christie Knowles contends Pilgrim’s “is spinning the FAA 7460 approval to be something that it is not.”

Knowles said, Pilgrim’s “is acting like this amounts to approval by the FAA of its chicken parts rendering plant when the FAA has clearly said it is not. As the FAA stated in its letter dated August 10, 2021, to Congressman (Robert) Aderholt, the FAA 7460 approval ‘... should not be considered FAA approval or a permit for the proposed development.’ The FAA letter goes on to explain that it recommends a separation distance of at least 10,000 feet between the airport and a hazardous wildlife attractant. ‘

Knowles said the FAA still requires a wildlife assessment and the development of a mitigation plan to prove that there is no risk. “As recognized by Congressman Aderholt, there clearly is a risk and that is a risk that the Gadsden Airport Authority should not take,” she said.

“For Pilgrim’s to suggest that this ‘do not object’ notice from the FAA means its plant would have no impact on the safety of our airport and its users is misleading and shows its continued and complete disregard for safety of our aviators and citizens,” Knowles said. “Let’s hope the Gadsden Airport Authority will not be fooled.”

Pilgrim’s Pride has made an offer to buy or lease property on Steele Station Road owned by the GAA to build a rendering plant — a proposal that has generated widespread public opposition, legal actions and proposed legislation designed to block it.

It also inspired some opponents of the plant to band together as Etowah Community, and to make an offer to buy or lease the property for a light industrial development at the site.

The GAA heard proposal from both potential buyers and heard strong support for the Etowah Community proposal at a public meeting. The authority has not made a decision on the sale of the property.

Letter from FAA by USA TODAY Network on Scribd

Times Managing Editor Greg Bailey contributed to this story

Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or donna.thornton@gadsdentimes.com.

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Pilgrim's, plant opponents view FAA letter differently

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