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The Biomass Monitor

The Biomass Monitor monthly newsletter is the nation's leading publication covering the health and environmental impacts of bioenergy.

Latest Issue: What Does It Mean To Be Green? [March 2015]

 

The Biomass Monitor
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The nation's leading publication covering the health and environmental impacts of bioenergy.

Made possible by funding from Energy Justice Network, Florida Environmental Justice Network, and Florida League of Conservation Voters

Editors: Josh Schlossberg, Mike Ewall, and Samantha Chirillo

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Join us on the 3rd Thursday of every month, where we invite guest speakers to present on an aspect relevant to the health, environmental, and economic impacts of biomass energy, and then open the call to questions and discussion.

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Biomass Monitor Blog

More California Biomass Facilities Closing

- by Seth Nidever, March 26, 2015, Hanford Sentinel

biomass in california[Notice not a single mention of health and environmental impacts of biomass facilities. -Josh] 

Once upon a time, local orchard farmers taking out trees piled them up in large heaps and struck a match, sending huge plumes of smoke into the air.

More recently, the waste has gone to biomass power plants that crank out electricity, meet stricter air pollution requirements and provide a renewable energy component.

But now that the whole biomass industry in California is threatened with extinction, the issue has become a hot topic in the ag industry.

Growers are asking: If you can’t burn orchard trees that have been removed, and you’ve got no biomass plant to send them to, where does it all go?

Plainfield, Vermont Biomass Continues to Rile Neighbors

- by Eric Blaisdell, March 27, 2015, Vermont Public Radio

biomass Things got so heated at Plainfield’s Select Board meeting Monday night in a discussion about Goddard College’s planned biomass-fueled heat plant, that one elected official told board members they’d be in “deep water” if they disregarded some residents’ wishes to have another meeting on it.

The school is applying for a 40-year Rural Development loan from the USDA that would cover 90 percent of the costs for the plant. As part of that process, it needs a letter of support from the town.

Goddard emailed the Select Board on Thursday looking for that support. Chairman Bram Towbin, speaking for himself, replied that the school has “mishandled the community relations aspect of this project” by not telling residents what was going on since the project began. Towbin invited someone from Goddard to attend the board’s meeting Monday to plead its case.

Residents who live near the plant’s site have been fighting it every step of the way. On Town Meeting Day in March 2013, voters rejected a nonbinding article asking the college to halt construction until it could be proven the nanoparticles emitted would be harmless. The debate got nasty, with neighbors accusing each other of being “liars,” “losers” and “jerks.”

Save America's Forests and Wild Lands from Anti-Environmental Congress

save america's forestsThe logging, grazing, mining and other extractive industries are mounting an intense attack on our nation's public lands. 
 
The December 2014 lame duck session of Congress saw an ugly brew of anti-conservation initiatives removing legal conservation protection from millions of acres of public lands. But this was just the tip of the oncoming extractive industries iceberg.
 
With Republican capture of the Senate in the 2014 election, the goal of the ultra right wing to privatize public lands may soon become reality. Representative Peter DeFazio’s legislation to virtually privatize and allow clearcutting on one million acres of federal land in Oregon could pass into law in the new Congress and become a model for the rest of our public lands. This anti-conservation juggernaut must be stopped. The landmark environmental and conservation laws that for a half century gave some protection to our public lands are eroding, and will disappear like the glaciers in Glacier National Park or the polar ice caps unless we, the hardcore grassroots, unite and fight back in a coordinated national campaign. 

Radioactive Spikes from Nuclear Plants a Likely Cause of Childhood Leukemia

- by Dr. Ian Fairlie, Ecologist

safe nuclear power?On 23rd August, The Ecologist published very clear evidence of increased cancers among children living near nuclear power stations around the world, including the UK.

The story sparked much interest on social media sites, and perhaps more importantly, the article's scientific basis (published in the academic peer-reviewed scientific journal the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity) was downloaded over 500 times by scientists.

Given this level of interest and the fact that the UK government is still pressing ahead with its bizarre plans for more nuclear stations, we return to this matter - and examine in more detail an important aspect which has hitherto received little attention: massive spikes in radioactive emissions from nuclear reactors.

$629 Million in Taxpayer Dollars for Bioenergy

- by Erin Voegele, March 19, 2015, Ethanol Producer Magazine

burning moneyOn March 12, the U.S. Energy Information Administration published a report on direct federal financial interventions and subsidies in energy for fiscal year (FY) 2103. The report, which responds to a request from Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, is an update of two earlier EIA reports covering FY 2007 and FY 2010.

Overall, the report finds the total value of direct financial interventions and subsidies in the energy markets decreased by nearly 25 percent between FY 2010 and FY 2013, declining from $38 billion to $29.3 billion. In FY 2010, $11.69 billion in subsidies were electricity related, with $10.7 billion in subsidies for fuels used outside the electricity sector and $15.57 billion in subsidies for conservation, end uses, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In FY 2013, the breakdown included $16.11 billion in electricity-related subsidies, with $5.21 billion in subsidies for fuels used outside the electricity sector and $7.94 billion in subsidies for conservation, end uses, and LIHEAP.

Montana Logging Collaborative Fails Restoration Goals

- by George Wuerthner, March 15, 2015, The Wildlife News

The Forest Service (FS), the timber industry and some environmental groups formed a collaborative groups several years ago known as the Southwest Crown of the Continent (SWCC). The goal ostensibly is to promote healthy ecosystems, but the real goal is to increase logging in the Seeley-Swan and Lincoln areas. The SWCC “restoration” objectives appear to be in direct conflict with sound science and well established principles.

The collaborative first misinterprets ecological parameters to create a problem that they can solve with logging. Then the logging creates extra problems like spread of weeds on logging roads, which in turn requires more management. It is a self-fulfilling management that damages our forest ecosystems, and wastes tax payer money to subsidize private timber interests.

Garden Variety Environmentalism: The Band-Aid Wing of the Green Growth Economy

- by Michael Donnelly, March 13, 2015, Counterpunch

It was 60+ degrees and sunny – had been for weeks – in western  Oregon, as I arrived in Eugene for the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon Law School – the planet’s oldest such conference. The conference, attended by over 3000 attorneys, activists, wonks and government officials, is put on by law students at the UofO. Other students from other top environmental law schools (Lewis and Clark, Vermont Law …) also pitch in organizing and moderating panel discussions. The organizers did a remarkable job juggling speakers, attendees and all the little things necessary.

While suffering from a bigger than usual allergy attack brought on by many types of trees and flowering plants budding out at the same time; I, as usual, perused the conference brochure for panels and Keynote addresses that would take on the big eco-threats of the day.

Out of over 200 panel presentations and twelve Keynote speakers, there were  1) three panels on citizen  activism (two at the same time); 2) one panel on Consumption; 3) one panel on Population; 4) one on the “false solution” of “Green” Energy;…and NONE at all on Biomass/Biofuels! Not at all promising.

Planned La Pine, Oregon Biomass Incinerator Hinges on Market

- by Dylan J. Darling, March 17, 2015, Bend Bulletin

A wood-burning power plant remains a possibility for La Pine, with the city now taking the lead on the project from Deschutes County and the company behind it waiting for a change in the energy market.

“It’s just been on hold due to market conditions,” said Rob Broberg, president of Biogreen Sustainable Energy Co., based in Vancouver, Washington. “And we plan on holding out until we are able to market and sell power.”

The company must find an energy buyer to make the planned plant economically viable, said Rick Allen, La Pine city manager.

“They need to find a power company that wants to buy their power,” he said. “…That’s really the issue.”

The $75 million, 25-megawatt biomass plant would produce enough electricity to power about 19,000 homes, Broberg said. The plant would burn wood — limbs and other scrap left over after logging, debris from thinning projects and urban waste — to heat water, create steam and turn a turbine. Interested power companies would likely be in California, where the state requires an increasing percentage of its power to come from “greener” sources such as biomass, wind and solar.

Gypsum, CO Biomass Incinerator Still Off-Line After December Fire

- by Scott Miller, March 22, 2015, Post Independent

A plant that generates electricity by burning beetle-killed wood had only been operating for a few months when a December fire badly damaged the facility’s conveyor system. The plant has been closed since, and will probably remain closed until summer.

The plant, built by Provo, Utah-based Eagle Valley Clean Energy, used about $40 million in federal loan guarantees to finance the project. The idea was to use beetle-killed wood to generate electricity, since there’s a decades-long supply of dead trees in the forests around Gypsum. The plant was intended to generate about 11.5 megawatts of power per hour — 1.5 megawatts to power the plant and 10 megawatts to be sold to Holy Cross Energy. That’s enough for about 10,000 homes, backers say.

Some neighbors of the plant have worried about air, water and noise pollution. But an Environmental Protection Agency website lists only two minor water-quality violations — one each in 2012 and 2013 — and no enforcement actions against the plant.

State of Illinois Settles Ethanol Spill Fish Kill Case

- by Pam Eggemeier, March 5, 2015, Sauk Valley

Rock River Illinois ethanol fish killA settlement has been reached with a railroad company responsible for an ethanol spill that caused a significant fish kill in the Rock River nearly 6 years ago, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office announced Thursday.

In June 2009, a Chicago, Central and Pacific Railroad train derailed in Rockford, killing one person. The explosion and resulting fire caused the release of up to 75,000 gallons of an ethanol and gasoline mixture into the surrounding environment, including several miles of the Rock River and its tributaries.

The settlement calls for CCP to pay $150,000 to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Winnebago County to settle alleged violations of the state’s Environmental Protection Act.

Madigan said CCP also agreed to pay $270,000 to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to fund restoration of two nature areas near the Rock River. The company will also pay for a $150,000 stream restoration project in the affected area.