Due to the Clean Air Act violations both Klamath Falls and Lakeview, Oregon have experienced this winter, Save Our Rural Oregon is requesting an emergency moratorium on proposed biomass and biofuels projects in both communities.
Letters have been forwarded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, asking for their support of an emergency moratorium on biomass and biofuels projects in both Klamath Falls and Lakeview. The letter asks for a stay on the issuance of any new or modified air quality discharge permit related to biomass and biofuels projects and on awarding site certificates on those projects not yet adjudicated by the Oregon Energy Facilities Siting Council.
“If they were already built, biomass projects proposed for both Klamath Falls and Lakeview would not only have made the air quality situation much worse but under anticipated sanctions placed upon us by EPA and DEQ starting in 2014, the biomass facilities would be exempt from shutting down and allowed to continue to burn while we citizens would be fined for heating our own homes,” said Paul Fouch, Executive Director of Save Our Rural Oregon. “If the upcoming sanctions were now in effect, these plants would never be built. We need to stop the placement of these proposed facilities before they are built, find solutions to our current air quality concerns, and reconsider these projects and their placement in the future.”
Biomass energy facilities are planned for Klamath Falls and Lakeview, communities that both have serious violations of the Clean Air Act – this winter the worst concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the entire United States. The 24 hour average PM 2.5 levels in Lakeview from 1/15/13-1/23/13 were 5 times the national standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter, approaching 300 micrograms per cubic meter hourly. These are comparable to the well-known air quality conditions in Bejing, China.
Klamath Falls experienced similar conditions, as air quality was so poor that the EPA standard for PM2.5 for the entire year was exceeded by January 19, putting Klamath Falls out of compliance for 2014. This means that Klamath Falls will be facing sanctions in the form of emissions restrictions from industry and citizen wood burning activities, and restrictions on any new or modified air quality permits that increase overall emissions.
Klamath Bio Energy is in the final stage of siting an energy facility in Klamath Falls, of which SORO is currently involved in a Contested Hearing, soon to be heard and decided by the Oregon Energy Facilities Siting Council. Iberdrola Renewables has two projects underway – a facility in Lakeview where they are currently seeking to triple the amount of emissions from its original air discharge permit and a second project adjacent to the proposed KBE facility in Klamath Falls. Given the socio-economic conditions of these communities, SORO believes the proposed placement of these facilities is unfair from a social justice and public health perspective, and will make these economically depressed communities that already have the most severe health problems in the state of Oregon de facto sacrifice zones.
“The consequences to the health and economic well-being of our citizenry are enormous given the current emissions levels, much less with the additional fine particulate matter from a biomass industry that does not have a good track record meeting their Clean Air Act obligations," said Fouch.
“We understand the position of our Congressional delegation and local elected leaders, that biomass may promote economic revival through the forest jobs that these projects represent. However, EPA and DEQ have a responsibility to protect the health and well being of the citizens of Klamath Falls and Lakeview."