Clean is the New Dirty | December issue of The Biomass Monitor

You guessed right, the December issue of The Biomass Monitor — the nation’s leading publication tracking the health and environmental impacts of bioenergy — is here!

Inside this issue:

- Ten Things You Need to Know if You Burn Wood

Biomass Incinerator a Threat to Children

I Can’t Breathe: Air Pollution Worse for Communities of Color

...and more!

Please share the December 2014 issue of The Biomass Monitor with your friends, colleagues, neighbors, media, and elected officials! 

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2014 Farm Bill Logs National Forests for Bioenergy

- December 17, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that more than 200,000 tons of biomass were removed from federal lands through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). BCAP, reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provided incentives for the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands for renewable energy, while reducing the risk of forest fire. This summer, 19 energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program.

"This initiative helps to retrieve forest residues that are a fire risk, but otherwise are costly to remove," said Vilsack. "In just three months, working with private partners across the country, the program helped to reduced fire, disease and insect threats while providing more biomass feedstock for advanced energy facilities."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency administered the program earlier this year. Eligible farmers, ranchers or foresters participating in BCAP received a payment to partially offset the cost of harvesting and delivering forest or agricultural residues to a qualified energy facility. Up to $12.5 million is available each year for biomass removal.

Key program accomplishments include:

In Colorado's Front Range, 18,000 tons of trees targeted by the USDA Forest Service to reduce forest fire threats were removed to generate energy.

In California's Rim Fire area in Tuolumne County, nearly 100 percent of the USDA Forest Service's targeted 40,000 tons of forest residue was approved for removal and transport to energy facilities.

In Arizona, 41,000 tons of forest residue in Apache and Navajo counties were approved for removal and transport to energy facilities.

In Oscoda County, Mich., home of the Huron Manistee National Forest, 5,000 tons of forest residue were approved for removal and transport to energy facilities.

These accomplishments helped the Forest Service meet or exceed its restoration goals for Fiscal Year 2014, including reducing hazardous fuels on 1.7 million acres in the wildland urban interface and sustaining or restoring watershed conditions on 2.9 million acres, resulting in 2.8 billion board feet of timber volume sold. To further support this program, the Forest Service has entered into a three-year, $1.5 million agreement to provide technical assistance to the Farm Service Agency as they implement BCAP on National Forest System lands. This will enable the development and execution of biomass sales, and help open and support new and existing markets for biomass products.

Minnesota Ethanol Plant Fined $25K for Air Pollution and Noise

- December 11, 2014, Associated Press

The Corn Plus ethanol plant in the south-central Minnesota city of Winnebago has agreed to pay a $25,000 penalty and take steps to reduce its air pollution and noise levels.

The corrective actions announced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Wednesday mark the latest step by officials to bring the plant into compliance with environmental regulations.

Corn Plus has paid about $660,000 in state and federal penalties for air and water quality violations and agreed to environmental improvements costing nearly $700,000 since 2009.

Corn Plus has an application pending with the MPCA for renewal of its environmental permits. Under its latest agreement with the agency, the company must submit more information for that application to move forward.

$181,000 Fine for Ethanol Air Pollution in Albany, NY

- by Brian Nearing, December 12, 2014, Times Union

An oil terminal operator at the Port of Albany has been hit with a $181,000 penalty by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for air pollution violations that lasted nearly a year.

Buckeye Partners failed to properly control vapor emissions from ethanol — a corn-based biofuel used as a gasoline additive — from trucks being loaded at the port, according to a DEC news release issued late Friday. The violations "did not result in any material air quality impacts," according to the release.

As part of a consent order reached last month, the penalty includes a $145,000 "community benefit project" that Buckeye will pay for in the neighborhood around the port. DEC will work with the community to identify the project.

Covanta Settles for $536,211 in Lawsuit Over Biomass Ash Testing

-December 11, 2014, Bakersfield Californian

District attorneys from eight California counties announced Thursday the settlement of a civil environmental enforcement action against three subsidiaries of a New Jersey-based company.

The settlement covers Covanta Energy LLC's Kern County biomass energy facility in Delano, along with other company facilities in Mendota and Oroville.

Kern County will receive about $75,000 as its reimbursement for costs and penalties out of Covanta's total fine of $536,211.

Biomass energy plants burn forest, agricultural and urban wood fuels in order to generate electricity. They produce ash waste streams that are either sent to landfills or have other uses in road building or agriculture.

The civil enforcement action was filed in Sacramento County and asserted that biomass ash sampling and analysis at the three Covanta facilities was not sufficiently rigorous.

The facilities will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting any future violations of law and requiring adherence to the new sampling and testing program for their biomass ash.

In addition to Kern and Sacramento counties, other counties participating in the action were Butte, Fresno, Glenn, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne.

New Factsheet on Energy Justice Communities Map and Justice Map

I have created a new flyer for Energy Justice Communities Map, Justice Map, and the Spatial Justice Test for Race and Income. Feel free to use this flyer at any event (like a conference, protest, workshop, class, etc) where people might be interested in these projects.

So-Called Conservation Groups Betray Environmental Movement

- by Howie Wolke, December 11, 2014, Wilderness Watch

[Powerful piece by long-time nature defender, Howie Wolke, who laments the losing strategy of many foundation-funded mainstream enviro groups that have become nearly indistinguishable from industry in their advocacy for more public lands extraction. -Josh]

My name is Howie Wolke and I live in the foothills of the Gallatin Range in southern Montana just north of Yellowstone National Park, about a mile from the greater Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Complex. I’ve been a wilderness guide/outfitter for backpacking and canoe trips since 1978. I am also a past President and the current Vice-President of Wilderness Watch.

Tampa Man Sentenced for $3 Million Biofuels Fraud

- by Susan Salisbury, December 9, 2014, Palm Beach Post      

A Tampa man was sentenced today on charges he scammed investors out of more than $3 million after promising returns on bio-energy crops such as camelina that were not even planted

 

William A. Vasden Jr. who once headed the Florida Feedstock Growers Association, was sentenced to four years in federal prison in a Fort Myers courtrom.

Vasden was also charged with fraudulently applying for federal grant funds for alternative energy projects that never materialized.

The scam was uncovered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services during a top-to-bottom audit of outstanding grants and projects conducted immediately after the department assumed responsibility of the state’s Office of Energy.

“Our audit exposed several cases of fraud, saving more than $2.4 million in taxpayer dollars,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. “Misuse of public funds is unacceptable, and those who have committed fraud will be held accountable.”

Industry Take: How Will 2014 Elections Impact Biomass?

- by Bob Cleaves, November 23, 2014, Biomass Magazine

On Nov. 4, Americans voted. This election was a decisive victory for Republicans. Senate, House, gubernatorial and even state legislature races across the country saw conservatives prevail. These results were expected, surprising to political types only in the thoroughness of the wins across the board.

What does this mean for biomass? It’s clear that this election signals the need to adjust our interactions with elected officials, but it’s not yet clear what shape that change will take. We will have a better sense of the new Congress’s direction after it is sworn in. The initial signs, however, indicate that there will be a lot we can work with, beginning with an emphasis on the economic benefits of biomass.

We expect that renewable energy, which had been gaining momentum as a key issue among Democratic leadership, will not be as high a priority for this Congress. Rather than focusing on the environmental benefits of biomass, there will likely be a renewed interest in biomass as an energy source that employs tens of thousands of Americans in rural areas.

Fracking Wastewater Treatment Facility Proposed in Pennsylvania

 - by Nicole Mulvaney, December 10, 2014, Times of Trenton

An Israeli water recycling company is proposing a hazardous waste treatment facility about 6 miles southwest of Trenton across the Delaware River in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex.

Elcon Recycling Center, which has an office in West Windsor, went before representatives of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday night detailing plans to construct the facility on 22 acres at 100 Dean Sievers Place.

Rengarajan Ramesh of Elcon said the facility will use environmentally sustainable technology to transform industrial liquid waste into clean water, cutting down more on solid waste and lowering air emissions compared to other industry practices.

“It will be a completely sealed system to the point there are no odors coming out,” Ramesh said.

Elcon’s proposal is unrelated to the hazardous waste incinerator proposed earlier this year in Bristol, Pa. and later put on hold.

About 90 to 95 percent of waste Elcon treats is water that has not been used in the fracking process and can be reused, Ramesh said. The existing site is considered a brownfield and Elcon plans to improve conditions there, he said.

But members of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Pennsylvania League of Women Voters said Elcon would annually treat 210,000 tons of raw hazardous waste, including mercury, lead and cadmium.

Red papers reading “hazardous waste” with a circle and line through the middle were handed out by group members present at the meeting.

Incineration would produce 39 tons of air emissions containing pollutants such as hydrochloric acid and nitrous oxide that could make their way to areas of Mercer County and Bordentown, environmentalists said.

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