Gainesville, FL Group Files Lawsuit to Scrap Biomass Power Contract
- by Josh Schlossberg
April 4, 2012: Gainesville Citizens CARE has filed a lawsuit in Florida Circuit Court to annul a $3 billion Power Purchase Agreement contract negotiated by Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) and approved by the Gainesville City Council for a 100 megawatt biomass incinerator proposed by American Renewables.
asks that "the contract negotiated behind closed doors in violation of
the Sunshine Law be declared void and without legal effect," according
to a Gainesville Citizens CARE press release. The Sunshine Law is a 1967 Florida statute requiring government transparency.
allegedly made in secret, without public disclosure, include an
extension of the contract from 20 to 30 years, a cost increase of 25%,
and the removal of a "back door out clause" that would've allowed "the
contract to be cancelled after its last regulatory approval and before
the commencement of construction."
Are Vermont's Enviro Groups Shifting Stances on Biomass Energy? (Read full post)
- by Josh Schlossberg
Where do the Green Mountain State's two biggest environmental groups, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), stand on burning forests for energy?
According to a 2012 policy statement, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG)
"supports providing significant incentives to the most efficient uses
of biomass (heating), and tiering incentives for other biomass uses
based on their efficiency, with the most inefficient uses (large,
electric-only or electric-led biomass plants) receiving no incentives."
Contradicting this statement, however, is VPIRG's 2009 publication, Repowering Vermont,
written by James Moore. The report, still in circulation today,
advocates for an expansion of almost 100 megawatts of biomass
electricity in the state by 2032.
Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC)
has urged the state government to "support biomass energy projects and
policies that clearly demonstrate net greenhouse gas benefits because
carbon neutrality cannot be assumed for all types of woody biomass
energy." VNRC is also "intervening in PSB [Public Service Board]
proceedings to address concerns related to large scale projects" in
Vermont, such as biomass power proposals in Fair Haven and Springfield.
2007, VNRC had a somewhat different view of the "carbon neutrality" of
biomass energy. "Biomass offers us a carbon-free, renewable, and local
energy source. That's right in step with VNRC's traditional values,"
said Elizabeth Courtney, VNRC's executive director in Diverging In The Woods: Facing Market Forces, Will Vermont Choose Sustainability? by Will Lindner, published in VNRC's Vermont Environmental Report.
Biomass Politics on Washington's Olympic Peninsula (Read full post)
- by Josh Schlossberg
(Source: Arwyn Rice and Paul Gottlieb, Peninsula Daily News)
politics are abuzz with biomass on Washington's Olympic Peninsula,
where Port Angeles and Port Townsend residents are facing two biomass
incinerator proposals from Nippon Paper Industries and Port Townsend Paper Corp.
the last several weeks, the former Mayor of Port Townsend warned
residents of the health impacts from burning biomass, and the Port
Angeles and Sequim City Councils--Sequim is fifteen miles downwind of
the proposed Port Angeles incinerator--canceled a previously scheduled
public forum to discuss biomass concerns.
looks like our city governments can't cope when research on the impacts
of burning biomass leapfrog ahead of rules, regulations and
laws...especially where the influences of timber interests loom large,"
said Diana Somerville, spokesperson for the seven groups that have filed suit against the Port Angeles incinerator.
Florida Medical Doctor: Biomass "Dangerous" to Elderly and Asthmatics
- by Josh Schlossberg
Below are excerpts from a letter by Marc J. Yacht, MD
of Hudson, Florida to the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection objecting to Texas-based Florida Power Development's proposal
to build a biomass power incinerator in Brooksville, Florida.
plants are unhealthy and specifically dangerous for many of our elderly
citizens suffering from pulmonary disease and those suffering from
air pollution is increased through the burning of biomass exacerbating
upper respiratory illness that can be catastrophic for those with
chronic lung disease. Many of our elderly and young asthmatics are
particularly sensitive to air pollutants generated by such a facility.
increased is the release of nitrous oxides creating ozone a highly
reactive oxidant gas. Ozone reacts in pulmonary airways that may result
in chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing; increased
susceptibility to infection, increased asthma attacks, increased asthma
medication use, and more visits to Emergency rooms for respiratory
is the most toxic technology converting materials into more noxious
gaseous, liquid, and solid forms. These plants tend to be costly to
communities, the electricity generated is expensive, and they provide a
disincentive to minimizing the production of materials that are too
toxic or complex to be cost-effectively or safely recycled.
Study: Industrial-Scale Biomass Energy Not Sustainable (Read full post)
- by Josh Schlossberg
According to a study published in Global Change Biology
last month, "large-scale bioenergy from additional harvest of forest
biomass is neither sustainable nor greenhouse gas neutral." The authors
dismiss biomass industry claims of "carbon neutrality" and argue that
increased logging "requires decades to centuries to be paid back by
fossil fuel substitution, if paid back at all."
determines that a European Union mandate to provide 20% of Europe's
energy from biomass would commandeer the equivalent of "60-70% of the
global increment in woody biomass." Expansion of biomass energy would
"export substantial amounts of nutrients, further depleting the soil
nutrient stock," especially when removing "nutrient-rich biomass
residues (slash) and root stocks." Required fertilization would further
increase greenhouse gas emissions.
predict an increase in burning whole trees, including from "previously
unmanaged forests," citing a rise in the price of wood chips in relation
to saw logs--reaching a staggering 60-70% of the price of saw logs in
Bill Would Sell Public Lands to Industry (Read full post)
- by Julia Waite
March 16, 2012:
Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a bill into the House of
Representatives to initiate a sell off of federally owned lands in the
western U.S. Colorado, Wyoming and Montana are among the ten states
implicated under H.R. 1126,
the "Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2011," which calls upon
the Secretary of the Interior to direct the sale of 3.3 million acres of
land, including Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, one-quarter of
which are forested.
relinquishment of federally owned land presents itself as a valuable
opportunity for the timber and biomass industries. A major limiting
factor for biofuels in becoming an economically viable producer of
electricity has been the availability of wood. "Obtaining a consistent
supply of woody biomass from federal lands is one of the primary
impediments to developing a biomass utilization sector," according to
biomass proponent Sustainable Northwest.
2003, the so-called Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) was passed
into law with a priority purpose to "reduce wildfire risks to
communities." Under the guise of fire protection, the government has
essentially been priming its federally owned lands for exploitation by
the biomass industry.
|From the Editor
- by Rachel Smolker, Managing Editor
of us who have been battling bioenergy are all too familiar with
accusations of shilling for the coal and fossil fuel industries.
Apparently, the assumption is that if you don't want to burn trees, you
must therefore support burning of coal/oil. We have to be constantly
wary and defend our opposition to bioenergy as a "false
solution"--alternatives are a good idea, but burning biomass is not a
there were ever a David and Goliath battle, opposing bioenergy is it.
With the harms caused by oil extraction, fracking for natural gas and
nuclear power ever more visible and dire, we in the anti-biomass
movement find ourselves struggling to be heard. Meanwhile, the
convergence of interests and power backing bioenergy is daunting: big
agribusiness, forestry, biotechnology and transport, as well as the U.S.
military are all behind bioenergy. Even the Obama administration is
Still, there's no question that our voices will be heard, and industry is worried about that. Thanks to all our allies!
|Biomass Buster of the Month
Toby Thaler - Washington
After living in Seattle for nearly four decades, Toby Thaler
wasn't about to sit back and let the biomass industry run roughshod all
over his home state of Washington. Instead, Toby has become a force of
biomass resistance through his work on an appeal of the Nippon biomass
incinerator proposed for Port Angeles, organizing lobbying efforts in
D.C., on the steering committee of the national Anti-Biomass Campaign and elsewhere.
top of impacts to human health and the climate, Toby believes that
biomass energy "is not a solution to the need to consume less energy."
Instead of burning our forests for energy, Toby advises that "our
civilization needs to learn how to function within the limits to growth"
and that "delay makes the solutions harder."
|Eye on D.C.
Obama Drops $35 Million on Biofuels (Read the full post)
- by Rachel Smolker
Obama administration has given yet another thumbs up to bioenergy,
announcing $35 million in funding for research on feedstock production,
bio-products development and biofuels development analysis.
Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint program
with Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, will
oversee the grants. The BRDI initiative was mandated by the Biomass
Research and Development Act back in 2000, which put in place a Biomass
Research and Development Board and Technical Advisory Committee.
enthusiasm for bio-everything is further indicated by a September 2011
announcement that the administration will develop a "National Bioeconomy
Blueprint" to "harness biological research innovations to address
challenges in health, food, energy and the environment."
the online petition to encourage Port Angeles and Port Townsend city
governments, as well as county and state governments, to enact a
moratorium on the construction/operation of biomass incinerators/boilers
in Washington State.
Energy Conservation vs. Efficiency
Homeowner's & Trades Resource Center
is the ability of a physical item to use less energy, water or other
resource to perform the same function. Conservation is a behavior that
results in the use of less energy, water or gas. For example, turning
the lights off when you leave the room, turning the water off while
brushing your teeth, turning down the thermostat during winter, turning
your car off when you run into the store for just a minute, etc., is
conserving a resource.
mechanical object cannot conserve; it is simply built to use energy or
other resource required more efficiently. For example, a light bulb
cannot conserve electricity; it is either on or it is off, it is up to a
human being to turn it off when it is not in use. A CFL or LED bulb
that uses less energy than an incandescent bulb is an example of an
energy efficient item. Adding insulation, air sealing, duct sealing
work, etc., is simply increasing the efficiency of a structure to help
reduce the cooling and heating loads, it does not conserve anything.