Volume 2, Issue 1 - January 2011
|From the Editor
Meg Sheehan, Managing Editor
we face the New Year's challenges in fighting biomass incinerators,
it's heartening to look back at what our grassroots advocacy has
accomplished--not only in 2010, but over the past several decades.
According to Energy Justice Network, grassroots organizing has stopped 60-90% of all proposed dirty energy and waste facilities since the 1970's!
exposing the dirty truth about today's incinerators disguised as
"green" and "renewable energy," the grassroots are forcing the corporate
speculators and opportunists to fold up shop. Each day our network
grows stronger and industry proposals are exposed for the greenwashing
scams that they are. Read on to learn more.
Biomass Moratorium in Washington
December 21, 2010
Thurston County Commissioners in Washington State have enacted a
year-long moratorium on the construction of new biomass facilities in
the county "for the preservation of the public health, safety and
general welfare of Thurston County residents." The action was in
response to a controversial proposal for a biomass gasification facility
for Evergreen College.
biomass "could be terribly unhealthy for us. It's about clean air in
many ways," said County Commissioner Sandra Romero. "We have very little
wiggle room before we're not in compliance with the Clean Air Act."
Big Biomass Loses Steam in Ohio
Nine proposals to co-fire forest biomass with coal totaling
2,210-megawatts are losing momentum in Ohio. Biomass burning "is an
option, but one that's on the back burner for us," said Sally Thelen, a
spokesperson for Duke Energy, which has proposed burning biomass at three existing power stations along the Ohio River.
cost [of biomass power] has not been competitive with the other options
for renewable energy," said Melissa McHenry of the Columbus-based American Electric Power, which had recently proposed burning forest biomass at three facilities.
Wisconsin Biomass Plans Withdrawn
November 29, 2010 Xcel Energy
has withdrawn plans to build what would have been the largest
electricity-generating biomass incinerator in the Midwest, on Lake
Superior in northern Wisconsin. The company cited increasing costs for
large-scale biomass incineration compared to other renewable energy
on those costs, and the fact that other renewable resources are
becoming more cost effective, and natural gas prices are dropping," said
David Donovan, Xcel manager of regulatory policy, "it was real
hard for us to go ahead and push the project through now, when we could
get other renewables in a much more cost-effective manner."
Xcel also blamed "considerable regulatory uncertainty at the state and federal level" for their decision not to build.
Missouri Nixes Biomass Power
December 6, 2010 Salem, Missouri aldermen voted unanimously to end negotiations with ProEnergy
services for an electricity-generating biomass incinerator. The
facility would have required 315,000 tons of green trees a year and
500,000 gallons of water a day, according to Salem Mayor Gary Brown.
|From the Forest
IPCC Member Opposes Incinerator
October 12, 2010
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) member William Moomaw
sent a letter to the Williamstown, Massachusetts Board of Selectmen
warning that a 29.5-megawatt biomass incinerator (and adjacent wood
pellet facility) proposal for nearby Pownal, Vermont “could be a source
of major problems for our town and region.”
Moomaw, who is Professor of International Environmental Policy and Director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University, wrote that “to support a plant
of this size will require the cutting of massive amounts of trees.”
According to Moomaw, the claim that burning biomass for electricity is
"‘carbon neutral’ because the new trees use the same carbon dioxide to
grow that they released when burned is false as has been recognized by
both US scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on
which I serve."
Willamette National Forest, Oregon
In 2009, Congress passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act
(“stimulus bill”) Section 1603 program for capital investment of the
U.S. Treasury Department in “renewable” energy projects. Between then
and December 2010, the taxpayer-funded 1603 program amounted to
$104,208,944 in cash grants specifically toward 10 biomass facilities
that generate electricity, 7 of them (163.8 MW) wood-burning, of the
total $5,794,909,024 allocated to eligible projects.
Passed on Dec. 13, 2010, Section 707 of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010
(HR 4853) extended for one year (through December 31, 2011), the
eligibility deadline for 1603 applicants to begin facility
As of Oct. 26, 2010, Forisk Consulting reports 234 announced, wood-burning electricity projects nationwide. The
electricity-generating capacity of proposed and expanding wood-only
biomass facilities across the U.S. currently totals about 2,367 MW,
which would equate to an estimated 29,918,880 tons per year of CO2
Biomass Incineration Competes With Composite Panel Industry“BCAP
would redirect wood from the manufacture of valuable wood products that
supports 350,000 American jobs,” according to John Bradfield of the Composite Panel Association, “to an industry that supports a fraction of the jobs to burn it.”
The USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP)
would provide $461 million worth of incentives over 15 years for
biomass burning. Representatives of the composite panel industry worry
about competition for a limited supply of forest products.
Bradfield’s powerpoint presentation, BCAP Unwound: What Can Happen When Government Policies Impact Competition For Wood,
criticizes the USDA for having “redirected fully utilized materials
already in the stream of commerce to lower value uses,” as in burning
mill waste for electricity.
Urge your U.S. Senators (www.senate.gov) to remove all funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program from the Omnibus Appropriations Act and instead support efficiency measures along with appropriately sited and scaled, community supported solar and wind.
Tax Bill Extends Biomass Grants
provision of the new tax bill signed into law in December by President
Obama will extend cash grants in lieu of investment tax benefits for 30%
of the cost of the construction of new biomass incinerators--as well as
other "renewable" energy projects--until the end of 2011. Section 1603
of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 had been set to expire at the end of 2010.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program
A Senate vote on the Omnibus Appropriations Act that would have removed funding from the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP)
has been postponed. Biomass proponents hope that the future bill will
extend funding for biomass incineration. The final rule provisions of
BCAP issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October would allot $461 million to biomass over 15 years.
lives for another day and it's going to be a big part of [our] agenda
in 2011 to keep that program going," said Bob Cleaves, president of Biomass Power Association.
Pediatrician States Biomass Concerns
Marc McDermott, M.D.
[Below are excerpts from Dr. McDermott's December 6, 2010 letter to the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Massachusetts]
a local pediatrician, I have concerns about the proposal to construct a
factory to produce electrical power by burning wood and wood products
in Pownal, Vermont. The issues are complex indeed; the pros and cons are
many and I will not review them here. The issue of air pollution,
however, is fairly straightforward.
will lead to particulate matter air pollution in our valley and that
air pollution will lead to disease. Many studies have shown that air
pollution of various kinds, especially fine particulates (soot) leads to
pediatric asthma exacerbations, school absences, deaths in adults and
other bad health outcomes.
am personally not reassured by the idea that our air here is currently
clean and that the added pollution from the biomass combustion plant
will not put us over "EPA limits." There is no reason to believe there
is an obvious "threshold effect" or safe lower limit in this case. Added
air pollution will add to disease and it will be the people in the
valley that runs from Bennington to Pownal and Williamstown [Mass.] that
bear that burden.
pollution shouldn't be added to our valley unless there is a truly
compelling reason or unless there is very convincing data to suggest
that the change in air quality will be minimal.
|Trashing the Climate
Incinerators in Disguise
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
of start-up companies are working to site a new generation of toxic
"incinerators in disguise" in communities throughout the world. These
are incinerators with names like gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma arc
that are promoted by waste companies as "safe" and "green" for
community health and the environment.
of today's incinerator companies claim that they can safely,
cost-effectively and sustainably turn any type of material such as
household trash, tires, medical waste, biomass, refuse-derived-fuel and
hazardous waste into electricity and fuels like ethanol and bio-diesel.
all of these technologies emit dioxins and other harmful pollutants
into the air, soil and water, and they are defined as incineration by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Grid involves technologies to improve the way electricity is supplied,
transmitted, distributed, stored and consumed, (including, for example,
new sensor, communication and information-sharing technologies).
Grid advancements will apply digital technologies to the grid, and
enable real-time coordination of information from generation supply
resources, demand resources and distributed energy resources. This will
bring new efficiencies to the electric system through improved
communication and coordination between utilities and with the grid,
which will translate into savings in the provision of electric service.
the Smart Grid will facilitate consumer transactions and allow
consumers to better manage their electric energy costs.