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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Public Lands, Dirty Energy

- by Josh Schlossberg, Energy Justice Now

Grassroots advocates have done a bang up job alerting the American public to the disturbing health and environmental impacts of the extraction, transportation, and generation of dirty energy (fossil fuels, nuclear power, and biomass/trash incineration). Greenhouse gases, air pollution, and water contamination from energy sources requiring smokestacks or cooling towers have become common knowledge to all but the willfully ignorant.

However, to achieve a critical mass of action that will influence public policy and shift private investment away from energy sources that cause more harm than good, dirty energy opponents must find common threads to weave the fabric of the movement together.

One such thread consists of the forests, prairies, and deserts on public lands that belong to every U.S. citizen, and the threat dirty energy poses to it all.

Musical Chairs

All too often activists fighting one sector of the dirty energy industry will ignore — and occasionally advocate for — yet another type of dirty energy, invalidating many of the very concerns they profess, confusing the public, and harming the overall movement.

For instance, when anti-coal campaigners give a pass to biomass energy, the coal industry gets away with toasting trees in their coal-fired power plants. By endorsing (or allowing) biomass incineration, anti-coal activists contradict their own talking points about air pollution from coal, since trees or other forms of “biomass” actually emit higher levels of deadly particulate matter per unit of energy produced than the dirtiest fossil fuel. Ironically, a coal facility that starts burning biomass may result in the facility operating longer than it would have otherwise —  continuing to burn more coal along with trees.

The same dynamic is at work when biomass energy opponents insist that natural gas would be a better fuel to burn in a power plant. How can the public, policymakers, and the media take biomass busters’ worries about climate and watersheds seriously when they are in favor of an energy source that leaks vast amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas over twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide — and can be responsible for groundwater contamination through hydraulic fracturing?

Or how about organizations that oppose fossil fuels because of threats to health and the environment while turning a blind eye — and in some ways opening the door — to the riskiest method of energy generation in the world: nuclear power?

In the long run, the lack of a unified dirty energy resistance allows industry to keep proposing facilities in towns without organized resistance to a particular fuel source — a kind of musical chairs where, when the music stops, no chairs are missing. 

Common Ground

Despite the valiant efforts of dirty energy opponents, climate change, air pollution, groundwater contamination, and forest destruction keep getting worse while the corporations who perpetrate these environmental crimes upon the American people keep getting stronger. Whatever we’re doing obviously isn’t working; it’s time to circle the wagons.

The key to movement solidarity is finding common ground between anti-fossil fuels, anti-nuclear and anti-incineration efforts. One such strategy — and by no means the only — literally involves finding “common ground”: public lands. While the extraction, transportation, and generation of dirty energy occurs mainly on “private” land, the exploitation of each energy source also impacts National Forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) tracts, and other publicly-owned lands.

The nuclear power industry mines uranium on BLM lands while pushing to dump their deadly radioactive waste in places like Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which includes public land.

An increasing percentage of fracking for natural gas takes place on BLM lands, as does some coal mining. Alaska BLM lands are routinely drilled for oil, and despite BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, offshore oil drilling continues. When the energy profiteers aren’t bleeding public lands for fossil fuels, they’re building pipelines through it. 

Meanwhile, more and more acres of National Forests and BLM lands are being logged to fuel polluting biomass incinerators, with the biomass and timber industry exploiting the fear of wildfire and insects to “get out the cut” before and after these naturally occurring events.  

And no matter the energy source, industry wants to hack transmission lines through our public lands.

Come Together — Right Now

Each separate component of the dirty energy resistance — anti-fossil fuels, anti-nuke, anti-biomass/trash incineration — has tried going it alone with individual campaigns pointing out the ills of one chosen dirty energy source, and virtually ignoring the others. While there’s been some positive traction over the years, the only way we’re going to get up the mountain is through mutual support.  

Extraction-free public lands solidarity is just one of many ways to link the movement together. 

Biomass Lease Terminated by Jasper Clean Energy in Indiana

- by Matthew Crane, April 21, 2014. Source: Dubois County Free Press

Dr. Norma Kreilein, her husband, Mike, Alec Kalla and Rock Emmert were all in session during the Jasper Utility Service Board (USB) meeting Monday night — the eve of Earth Day — when it was announced that Jasper Clean Energy would be terminating the lease to create a biomass power plant in Jasper.

John Rudolf, a freelance writer covering a story for Notre Dame Magazine about Dr. Kreilein — a Notre Dame alumni — and her organization’s battle against the City of Jasper for the past two-and-a-half years, sat by himself in the public seating. Rudolf’s pedigree includes the New York Times and Huffington Post, where his stories gravitated towards environmental and political issues.

Are Climate Claims for Burning Renewable Trees a Smokescreen?

- by Robert McClure, April 21, 2014. Source: The Tyee/Investigate West

Nestled into a seaside forest on the University of British Columbia's lands, amid a carpet of sword ferns and salal, sits a gleaming industrial facility that's been hailed as a significant step toward a carbon-neutral future for B.C., Canada and even the world.

The wood-gas fired plant just off Marine Drive in Vancouver, the university boasts, "will reduce UBC's natural gas consumption by 12 per cent and campus greenhouse gas emissions by nine per cent (5,000 tonnes), the equivalent of taking 1,000 cars off the road."

"It's very exciting," said Brent Sauder, UBC's director of strategic partnerships, who helped shape plans for the plant. "It's not a research activity -- it's a mission."

That mission is to replace finite, climate-baking fossil fuel with renewable wood to generate electricity. It sounds so darn cool: UBC students charging their iPods on solar energy stored in wood.

Ethanol Plant at Buffalo Lake, MN Cited

- April 14, 2014. Source: KDUZ/KARP

St. Paul, Minn.– The ethanol plant in Buffalo Lake formerly owned by Minnesota Energy is in the process of correcting water and air quality permit violations, and must pay a $10,000 civil penalty, according to an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

In October 2012, Renville County officials reported a “white discoloration” in a section of Judicial Ditch 15 downstream from the plant. An MPCA inspection revealed that contaminated stormwater and cooling tower wastewater had been discharged to the ground, causing a storm pond to overflow, and eventually flowing to Judicial Ditch 15. The inspection also noted that the plant had failed to meet permit requirements for observing discharge limits, monitoring, and reporting.  

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.