The Biomass Monitor

The Biomass Monitor monthly newsletter is the world's leading publication tracking the health and environmental impacts of biomass incineration.

Latest Issue: Are Dirty Energy Opponents NIMBY? Proving Industry Wrong - April 2014

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A publication of Energy Justice NetworkFlorida Environmental Justice Network and Florida League of Conservation Voters.

Editors: Josh Schlossberg, Rachel Smolker and Mike Ewall

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A New Kind of Pipeline…for CO2?

[Pipelines aren't just for fossil fuels anymore. -Ed.]

- by Russell Hubbard, April 12, 2014. Source: Omaha World-Herald 

A Wyoming oil company told Nebraska ethanol producers Friday that a $1 billion carbon dioxide pipeline across the state would mean up to $50 million a year in new revenue for them.

Scott Hornafius, president of Elk Petroleum, said such a pipeline would buy some or all of the CO2 produced by the state’s 24 ethanol plants and ship it to Wyoming, where it is needed for injection into oil wells. The CO2 helps drillers extract almost as much oil as the initial strike, about 17 percent of the well’s total.

Energy Justice Now: A Forum for Dirty Energy Opponents

Since 1999, Energy Justice Network has worked with communities across the U.S. to oppose every kind of dirty energy facility — from coal and natural-gas fired plants, to nuclear reactors, to biomass and trash incinerators — to protect human health and the natural world that keeps us alive.

While countless pollution pushers have been run out of town by local grassroots resistance over the years, proposals for new filth factories — some even under the guise of “green” energy — keep coming hard and fast. A lack of nation-wide solidarity across the anti-dirty energy movement dilutes our power to eventually put the dirty energy opportunists out of business altogether.

To that end…In May 2014, Energy Justice Network will be launching Energy Justice Now — a first-of-its kind publication reporting on the entire spectrum of the dirty energy resistance and highlighting the voices of community organizers battling fossil fuels, nuclear power, and biomass and trash incineration from sea to shining sea.

Energy Justice Now will unite the many voices of our movement into one loud roar demanding clean air, pure water, a livable climate, and a truly sustainable economy.

Stay tuned for May 2014 and the birth of Energy Justice Now — because clean energy can’t come out of a smokestack! 

Are Dirty Energy Opponents NIMBY? Proving Industry Wrong [The Biomass Monitor - April 2014]

April 2014 issue of The Biomass Monitor: Are Dirty Energy Opponents NIMBY? Proving Industry Wrong

In this issue of The Biomass Monitor (the world's leading publication tracking the health & environmental impacts of "biomass" energy):

-"Are Dirty Energy Opponents NIMBY?"

-"Vermont: The Little State that Could?"

-"Maryland Dumps Incineration"

Please share the April 2014 issue of The Biomass Monitor with your friends, colleagues, and neighbors!

For back issues of The Biomass Monitor, more information on the health and environmental impacts of biomass energy, or to get involved, go to: http://www.energyjustice.net/biomass  

NEW STUDY: Air Pollution Good for Lungs

HAPPY APRIL FOOL'S DAY!

- by Fiske Sterling, April 1, 2014. Source: TBN News

A new study out of Miskatonic University in Rhode Island has concluded that air pollution, specifically particulate matter, can repair damaged lung tissue.

The scientific consensus up until this point had been that particulate matter — the byproduct of combustion from power plants and automobiles — can penetrate deep into the lungs, the bloodstream, and other organs to cause a number of debilitating ailments from asthma to diabetes.

The study, Long Term Exposure to Particulate Matter 2.5 Shows Alveolar Tissue Regeneration, has turned conventional wisdom on its head in regards to the human health impacts of air pollution.

“All these years we have assumed that particulate matter caused inflammation and lung disease,” said Franklin Corrigan, M.D., lead study author and Chair of the Miskatonic University Medical Center. “We now have reason to believe that it’s a cure.”

The Nodbury Medical Association sent out a press release this week announcing “The End of Asthma,” reporting that hospitals across the nation are already in the development stages of experimental treatments involving the inhalation of particulate matter for those suffering from asthma and COPD.

Where once patients with lung disease were brought to remote locations in rural areas to recover from their ailments, they may now be sent into residential communities in close proximity to coal-fired and biomass power plants and trash incinerators such as Virginia City, Virginia, Burlington, Vermont, and Detroit, Michigan.

The coal, biomass energy, and trash incineration industries reacted with jubilance. “For years, our industry has been maligned as ‘dirty’ and ‘polluting,’ been libeled in the press by environmentalists and shackled with one government restriction after another,” said Sylvia Rathness of the Clean Coal Institute for Advancement. “Now the truth has come to light, we will be entering a golden age for combustion-based technologies.”

Environmentalists had mixed reactions to the implications of the study. “As responsible voices for reason, we have rarely spoken out against power plants, and in many cases advocated for some forms of the technology,” said Martin Spender of This Green Planet, an international environmental organization based out of Washington, D.C.  “We hope that the industry will continue to work hand in hand with us to move forward with a common sense approach that will further benefit public health and the economy.” 

Radical voices that have long opposed “dirty” energy sources are in a state of remorseful shock following the release of the study, many of whom have already officially disbanded their organizations. “All these years, we thought the anti-dirty energy movement was protecting people,” said Shari Randall of the Earth Breath Alliance based in Bellingham, Washington. “We had no way of knowing that we were actually doing them harm…My God, what have we done?” 

Maryland Dumps Incineration

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

VICTORY!!  For a second year in a row, pro-incinerator legislation in Maryland was defeated.  This stealthy legislation was written by Covanta (the nation's largest trash incineration company) and would put Maryland on the path to burning nearly all of the waste that isn't recycled. 

The legislation takes the Renewable Portfolio Standard concept (which mandates a phase-in of renewable energy) and applies it to municipal solid waste (trash).  Without even mentioning incineration, this "Recycling and Landfill Diversion Portfolio Standard" would move the state toward increased recycling, but require that the remainder be diverted from direct dumping in landfills. Rather than move away from both landfills and incinerators, the bill would create the market for burning nearly all of the non-recycled waste in the state, before dumping the ash in landfills. This fits with efforts by many corporations and cities to hijack the concept of "zero waste" to make it mean "zero waste to landfill"— pushing incineration and pretending that the ash isn't then dumped in landfills.

In 2011, Maryland was the first state to bump trash incineration into Tier I of their Renewable Portfolio Standard, putting it in competition with wind power. This awful idea, pioneered in Maryland, is now being pushed in several other states. Please look out in your state for these covert attempts to promote incineration in the guise of recycling and "landfill diversion."

This bill in Maryland passed the Maryland House, but was stopped in the Senate when their Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted unanimously (11 to zero) to reject the bill. See www.energyjustice.net/md/ for more information on this and other pro-incineration bills we worked to stop (all of which are dead for this year).

Many thanks to all who helped stop this misguided legislation, most especially Greg Smith of Community Research and the following organizations: Assateague Coastal Trust, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Clean Water Action, Community Research, Crabshell Alliance, Energy Justice Network, Food & Water Watch, Free Your Voice, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, No Incinerator Alliance, Sierra Club, United Workers, Waste Not! Carroll, Wicomico Environmental Trust, and Zero Waste Prince George's.

EPA Begins to Address Biomass Emissions in Permits Following Court Decision

- by Andrew Childers, March 28, 2014. Source: Environment Reporter

The Environmental Appeals Board partially remanded an air pollution permit for a waste-to-energy facility in Puerto Rico after it failed to account for greenhouse gas emissions from biomass.

The Energy Answers Arecibo LLC permit is one of the first to address emissions from biomass in the wake of a 2013 federal appeals court decision vacating an Environmental Protection Agency rule that exempted biogenic greenhouse gases from the Clean Air Act's prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting requirements, attorneys and forestry representatives said.

The EPA has yet to respond to the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and forestry advocates said that is increasing uncertainty in an industry now subject to the permitting requirements.

Vermont: The Little State that Could?

- by Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch

I am fortunate to live in the tiny state of Vermont, a state that has boldly led the way on so many issues it's hard to list them all. We were the first to pass same-sex marriage and to take serious steps to make health care accessible to all. We outlawed billboards altogether and passed Act 250, a sophisticated mechanism for protecting the landscape against wanton development. That, in fact, led Vermont to be the last state in the nation to be colonized by Walmart. We were also the first state to ban fracking. We fought Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission long and hard demanding they shut down the dangerously rickety Yankee Nuclear power plant. Recently, at long last and against all odds, we "won" a semi-victory on that front.

Are Dirty Energy Opponents NIMBY? Proving Industry Wrong

- by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

It’s typical for energy developers facing community resistance to proposed facilities to try to discredit opponents by calling them NIMBY (Not in My Backyard), steering the argument away from health and environmental impacts to simply one of aesthetics. Corporate profiteers argue that local opposition doesn’t have a problem with a given energy technology itself — so long as they don’t have to look at it.  

So, how far are dirty energy opportunists off base when they toss the NIMBY label around in an attempt to sway public opinion and influence government policy in regards to their pollution factories?

Industry Labels

Public Strategy Group’s focus is to give its corporate clients — including nuclear, bioenergy and natural gas corporations, along with offshore investment companies and Wal-Mart — “strategic advantage over their opponents in the public” and government by “countering community opposition.”

Company President Al Maiorino claims that “opponents may favor clean energy, however they don’t want it located anywhere they can see it.” Industry’s main talking point is that members of the public don’t actually have a problem with the concept of a biomass incinerator or natural gas-fired facility, simply its location.

Incinerators have such a stigma associated with them that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of NIMBY actually includes a specific mention, as “opposition to the locating of something considered undesirable (as a prison or incinerator) in one's neighborhood.”  A community is only NIMBY if it fights the siting of a facility without articulating a complete rejection of that form of energy.

In the case of mountain top coal removal, we frequently see public blowback at the site of extraction in Appalachia, along the thousands of miles of transportation routes across the country, and at the coal-fired power facilities themselves. This far-reaching opposition, from the source to the burners, has also recently popped up in regards to hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas. The end result is that the fossil fuel industry faces conflict wherever it turns.

More often than not, with some notable exceptions, the anti-fossil fuels movement tends to defy industry’s NIMBY slur by giving a thumbs down to the use of that dirty energy source entirely, no matter where it’s located.

Think Locally, Act Locally?

While fossil fuel opponents typically employ a local, regional, and national strategy, the majority of resistance to biomass energy occurs at the facility level only — due, in part, to communities simply having a limited amount of time and resources to expend.

However, on many occasions, communities fighting a proposed biomass incinerator have made the case that “biomass isn’t right” for their town — implicitly (and in some cases, explicitly) suggesting that another area would be better suited for the facility. In some cases, communities have successfully chased an incinerator developer out of town, only to have them set up shop in a poorer community a few dozen miles down the road, bringing up environmental justice concerns. 

So, what makes the biomass fight different from, say, other types of dirty energy resistance?

First, unlike concentrated deposits of uranium or natural gas located only in specific regions around the country, biomass fuel — forests, trash, crops, manure or other organic materials — is more plentiful and typically found within a hundred miles or less of a facility (except in the case of  wood pellet exports to Europe and Asia). The relative abundance of forests and other biomass fuels means transportation routes aren’t as long and can go by truck over existing roadways, so they don’t generate the sort of opposition that comes where new rail lines or pipelines are required. 

Second, unlike mining or drilling for energy-dense coal or oil, the sheer number of trees needed to feed a biomass incinerator requires thousands of acres of isolated forest stands spread out over the landscape. This lack of one or a few large, central extraction locations makes it tricky to launch on-the-ground monitoring and publicize environmental impacts.

Third, biomass opposition does not enjoy the massive foundation funding that goes to fighting fossil fuels, so the movement is far more grassroots — without as heavy a presence of Big Greens facilitating opposition where it might not form organically.

Whatever the reasons, when dirty energy opponents focus exclusively on stopping the construction of a facility in their town without tying into a nation-wide movement, they lend credibility to industry’s NIMBY label — diluting the health and environmental arguments against the polluting energy source itself.

Weakness as Strength

The far-flung nature of forests is both the main reason why biomass energy opposition tends to be so localized and is also a great opportunity for national solidarity.

More and more, the biomass industry has been setting its sights on public lands — National Forests and Bureau of Land Management tracts — to feed their incinerators. Inflaming fears of wildfire and insects, the biomass industry has teamed up with Big Timber and vote-hungry politicians to demand a rapid uptick in logging on public lands owned by all Americans. 2003’s Orwellian Healthy Forest Restoration Act and more recently Senator Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) Senate Bill S.1784 and Senate Bill S.1301 seek to get out the cut by insisting that, counter to sound science and common sense, the only way to “save” forests is to log them.

Perhaps, once Americans realize that the millions of acres of oxygen-producing, carbon-sequestering forests to be chipped and burned for smokestack energy are under their control, they will understand the importance of snuffing out biomass incineration nation-wide. One such response to public lands protection, the Act to Save America’s Forests, has enjoyed bi-partisan support from over 140 members of Congress and been introduced into both the Senate and House of the U.S. Congress for over a decade.

From NIMBY to NOPE

Fighting facilities at a local level is the foundation of dirty energy resistance. But, without tying into a national framework, such as the Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, the smokestack industry will simply keep playing its game of musical chairs, siting facilities in the poorest towns and/or communities of color.

Pushback to a dirty energy facility, be it a biomass incinerator or “clean” coal-fired burner, needs to be accompanied by disapproval of its siting anywhere else, condemnation of all forms of its technology, and refusal to endorse a dirty energy “alternative.”

Anything less than national anti-dirty energy solidarity negates the genuine concerns of harmful health, climate, and ecosystem impacts from smokestack energy by lending credence to industry’s NIMBY name-calling. The day that dirty energy opponents finally close their ranks in unity, the pollution pushers will have nowhere left to run.

EPA Proposal Classifies Wood Fuel from Construction, Demolition

[Biomass industry pushing for even less regulation of their dirtiest fuel source. -Ed.]

- by Erin Voegele, March 27, 2014. Source: Biomass Magazine

On March 27, the U.S. EPA released a proposed rule to amend its Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials regulation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The NHSM rule was finalized in February 2013 and establishes standards and procedures for identifying whether non-hazardous secondary materials are solid wastes when used as fuels or ingredients in combustion units.

Information published by the EPA explains that if a material is classified as solid waste under RRA, a combustion unit burning it must meet Clean Air Act section 129 emission standards for solid waste incineration units. Alternatively, if the material is not considered a solid waste, combustion units that burn it are required to meet the CAA section 112 emission standards for commercial, industrial and institutional boilers.

Nippon Temporarily Shut Down Because of Biomass Fuel Problems at Power Plant

- by Paul Gottlieb, February 27, 2014. Source: Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Fuel-system problems with Nippon Paper Industries USA’s newly expanded biomass cogeneration plant have caused a two-week shutdown of the mill, according to a union official.

Darrel Reetz, vice president of the Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers Local 155, said Thursday he is confident the plant will be up and running again by about March 9.

“We are having some issues that need to be fixed on the fuel system,” Reetz said.