Springfield, VT Fights Biomass Power
- by Josh Schlossberg
Feb. 23, 2012: Over 200 Springfield, VT residents filled the local high school cafeteria for a presentation by Winstanley,
a Massachusetts developer looking to build a 25-35 megawatt biomass
power incinerator on the north end of town. During a Q&A segment,
citizens raised several concerns, including air pollution, truck
traffic, water withdrawals, and forest degradation.
would the citizens of Springfield allow the construction of a power
plant that is dirtier in many respects than a coal plant?" asked
Springfield resident Maggie Kelly, citing numbers from Winstanley's own air permit application demonstrating higher levels of asthma-causing particulate matter (PM) than the Mt. Tom coal plant in Holyoke, Mass.
"Mt. Tom is actually a pretty good coal-firing plant...so it's not so bad to be compared to Mt. Tom," responded Winstanley
consultant Dale Raczynski. "There's an existing coal plant out there
that has very low emissions. We're being compared to that. And we have
also very low emissions..."
Logs for Burlington, VT's McNeil Biomass Incinerator
Incineration Forced on Connecticut Communities
- by Josh Schlossberg
(source: Lori Valigra, Mass High Tech, Jan. 10, 2012)
residents are facing two new biomass power incinerator proposals, a
37.5 megawatt proposal for Plainfield and a 42 megawatt proposal
(conversion from natural gas and oil plant) for Montville.
The Plainfield Renewable Energy (PRE) incinerator is a subsidiary of the Enova Energy Group,
based in Georgia and Florida. The incinerator, which would burn
primarily construction and demolition debris, has received all its
needed permits and construction is estimated to be completed in December
2013, according to the developers.
will produce 10 times more air pollution than a natural gas fired plant
per megawatt of electricity produced," said Randy Stilwell of Concerned Citizens of Plainfield, a group opposing the incinerator. "The amount of air pollution produced by PRE is worse than a dirty coal fired plant."
incinerator will burn unlimited amounts of wood treated with the
preservative pentachlorophenol, which is "extremely toxic to humans,"
with inhalation causing neurological, blood, and liver effects,
according to the EPA.
"Trash is not a renewable energy source and PRE will be one of the dirtiest power plants in the region," warns Stilwell.
VT Biomass Working Group Wants More Incineration
Feb. 8, 2012: Recommendations in the final report of the State of Vermont's legislatively-appointed Biomass Energy Development Working Group (BEWG),
released in late January, would allow an increase in air pollution, and
the emission of millions of tons of climate-changing greenhouse gases,
degrade Vermont's iconic forests through intensive "whole-tree
harvesting," and heighten the risk of transporting invasive insects like
the emerald ash borer.
chose not to address public health impacts from biomass burning despite
numerous complaints from communities facing biomass proposals across
the state and concerns from public health organizations, such as the American Lung Association in Vermont. The BEWG also chose not to address the carbon dioxide smokestack emissions of burning biomass.
|Does EPA Underestimate Toxic Air Pollution from Biomass Incinerators?
- by Josh Schlossberg
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
may be underestimating the levels of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs)
emitted from biomass incinerators, which consist of dozens of toxic and
carcinogenic chemicals including arsenic, chlorine, and styrene.
to pollute are based upon estimates made with factors the EPA clearly
states are not accurate for specific facilities," writes Alec Kalla, of
French Lick, Indiana in Biomass is Dirty Business.
"The smokestack approved for your neighborhood could be spewing a
hundred or a million times more poison than its owner and regulators
The EPA estimates air pollution emissions from "factors" in its AP-42 Compilation of Air Pollutant Emission Factors,
which are "simply averages of all available data of acceptable
quality." They admit that "emission factors are not intended to provide
exact estimates of releases of air toxics from specific facilities."
Continuous Emissions Monitoring of HAPs can yield accuracy," says
Kalla, who has opposed biomass projects in Indiana, including the
defeated Crawford County incinerator, "because emissions can vary by
orders of magnitude even at the same facility."
odds of calculated emissions from burning biomass being wrong are two
in three," cautions Kalla. "Even Russian Roulette offers better odds."
Study: More Whole Trees Cut for Southern Biomass
- by Josh Schlossberg
Feb. 14, 2012:
The expansion of biomass energy in the Southeastern U.S. may play a
role in triggering runaway climate change by increasing the logging of
whole trees, says a study by National Wildlife Federation and Southern Environmental Law Center.
Biomass Supply and Carbon Accounting for Southeastern Forests
calculates that an expansion of biomass energy "creates a carbon debt
that takes 35-50 years to recover before yielding ongoing carbon
benefits relative to fossil fuels." The findings cause concern with
"climate scientists who assert that the next 20-30 years are a critical
time for reducing carbon additions to the atmosphere."
expansion of biomass energy likely involves burning through available
supplies of forest "residues," says the study, resulting in the logging
of more whole trees. "The evidence clearly suggests that any expanded
biomass energy in the Southeast will come from harvested wood."
North Carolina Enviros Biomass Statement
- by Josh Schlossberg
The following are excerpts from Sustainable Forest Bioenergy for North Carolina, by Environmental Defense Fund, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and several other environmental organizations.
of forest biomass for energy should be net carbon beneficial within a
timeframe necessary to avoid adding greenhouse gases that could
exacerbate negative climate change impacts.
ambient air quality monitoring and proper siting should be required to
identify the potential for community impacts or hotspots.
utilization of forest biomass for energy production must not harm North
Carolina's forests, waters or wildlife or the health of the state's
studies conducted every 3-5 years should evaluate economic, climate and
landscape impacts associated with the utilization of forest biomass in
|Please Donate to the National Anti-Biomass Campaign
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industrial biomass energy incineration by influencing legislative
policy, through public and media education and outreach, and by
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|From the Editor
- by Rachel Smolker, Managing Editor
This month saw important reports and statements from National Wildlife Federation, Southern Environmental Law Center, Biomass Energy Resource Center, Environmental Defense Fund, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy,
focusing on the impacts of bioenergy on the Southeastern U.S., which
industry likes to refer to as "the Saudi Arabia of bioenergy."
region is targeted for its massive industrial pine plantations, not
only to supply the pulp industry and domestic bioenergy demands, but
also for exports of pellets and chips to meet European bioenergy demands
as well. On February 27th, a fire broke out at a massive 750 megawatt
coal to biomass conversion facility in the UK that is being supplied
from Southeastern US forests. The blaze sent approximately 4,000 tons of
imported wood pellets up in smoke and points to the danger posed by
these large stockpiles of pellets and chips.
The Southeastern U.S. is also targeted for a "controlled release" of genetically engineered eucalyptus--fast
growing and cold tolerant to provide "more biomass" and large areas of
invasive Miscanthus grass as well. The future of the Southeastern
forests will depend to a large degree on our effective grassroots
|Biomass Buster of the Month
Therese Vick -- North Carolina
Therese Vick is at the heart of biomass opposition across North Carolina. A community organizer for Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League,
Therese puts in more than her share of time "educating the public,
decision-makers, and other environmentalists" to put the brakes on
Though up against a recent North Carolina Court of Appeals
decision granting State "renewable energy" subsidies for the burning of
whole trees for electricity, Therese remains optimistic. "My hope is
that policy makers and the public will stop believing the industry
greenwash, end the perks and tax breaks, and take a hard look at the
damage that is being caused by this industry before it is too late."
|Eye on D.C.
Washington State Bill Boosts Burning
- by Rachel Smolker
view Washington State's magnificent temperate rainforests as a
biodiversity treasure desperately in need of protection. The biomass
energy industry, however, sees big trees with a lot of "biomass" to be
The industry got a boost this month with the State Senate's passage of the "Legacy" biomass bill. The bill,
sponsored by Sen. Brian Hatfield (D), will alter the states "Initiative
937" which previously mandated newer, larger utilities to produce a
portion of their power from renewable energy. The Legacy bill will also
allow older facilities to benefit from subsidies for burning, primarily
black liquor byproducts of pulp processing, and would expand the
definition of eligible biomass to include more materials. Now the bill
will go to the House.
Meanwhile, Occupy Seattle activists protested with a "die in" at Seattle Steam's polluting incinerator, which has been granted $55 million in federal supports to expand operations.
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Plant-Based Solar Panels?
- by Amber Veverka
dyes from plants rich in compounds called flavonoids can produce
electrical current when sandwiched between the layers of a solar cell,
in the spot where silicon would normally go. David Carroll and his Wake Forest team set out to find a plant whose dye would work the best. Eventually the team tried pokeweed.
team painted the purple juice on a transparent conductor, a piece of
glass or plastic with an aluminum zinc oxide coating. That was
sandwiched against a second plate covered with a very thin metal coating
with a dilute solution of iodine between and placed in the sun.
large panel of this stuff, a couple of meters on each side, could
produce 5 to 10 watts pretty easily. That's going to charge a battery up
pretty fast," Carroll said.