Proposed Washington Biomass Incinerator Nets $200k State Grant

[Another biomass incinerator that would require the logging of public lands. -Ed.] 

- by Eric Florip, August 27, 2014, The Columbian

A $200,000 state grant will support a new biomass-fueled power plant near Stevenson expected to be operational next year, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday. The money will go to Wind River Biomass Utility, which has pursued the project will local, state and federal partners.

"Enabling clean, renewable heat and power generation from forest biomass not only creates jobs and economic activity in our timber-dependent communities, it supports our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase treatment of our local forested lands for health and fire reduction," Inslee said in a statement. The announcement came during the governor's swing through the area.

The facility would generate energy from forest biomass — for example, the wood debris left over from timber harvesting, thinning and treatments.

Studies have shown the plant could be built along with a greenhouse and nursery business, according to the governor's office. The heat and power generated by the facility would serve the site itself, and surplus power could be sold to the Skamania County PUD.

The grant will be paid through the state Department of Commerce's Forest Products Financial Assistance Program, which is federally funded. The money will be used to purchase equipment for the facility.

The $2 million first phase of the project is expected to operational by next summer, said Paul Spencer, managing partner with Wind River Biomass. The facility's initial capacity will be a half of a megawatt of electricity, and two to three megawatts of heat equivalent, Spencer said. Future expansion could increase capacity to two megawatts of electricity and five megawatts of heat equivalent, he said.

Most of the material fueling the plant will come from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Spencer said.

Stalled Springfield, MA Biomass Incinerator Gets Building Permit

- by Michaelann Bewsee, August 21, 2014, Arise for Social Justice

Funny how bad news can make you want to fight even harder for justice.

Remember the community’s fight to keep a biomass plant out of Springfield? Yesterday we found out that the Land Court granted Palmer Renewable Energy’s request to reinstate their building permit, undoing the Springfield Zoning Board’s decision that the building permit was invalid. That means that PRE gets its building permit back unless we and/or the City of Springfield can find a way to stop them.

How can we stop them? Stay tuned for more on that, but if you know Arise, and the coalition we formed, Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, then you should know by now that we don’t give up.

I’m still sorting out the legalities of the decision, but as I’m understanding it right now, the Court held that seeing as the City of Springfield didn’t require a special permit for other kinds of waste incineration, why start now? And the Court held that green wood chips are not waste, even though those wood chips will come from waste wood! Therefore, PRE’s Building Permit should be restored.

PRE’s intentions are to produce 38 MG of energy by burning waste wood. Some of you may remember that originally, PRE wanted to burn construction and demolition debris to produce energy, which would be very inexpensive for them, but the community uproar was so loud that the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) put a moratorium on all permits to burn construction and debris. That’s when PRE decided to burn waste wood instead. But of course waste wood still comes from trees—PRE has chosen to use the word “renewable” in its company’s name, but trees are not renewable in any time frame that makes sense when you consider the importance of trees capturing the carbon that is altering the climate of our planet.

With nearly one out of five kids in Springfield living (or dying) with asthma, we have come to the conclusion that burning anything to produce energy is a step in the wrong direction.

Tennessee Biomass Incinerator Shut Down For Costs, Safety

- by Frank Munger, August 24, 2014, Knoxville News Sentinel

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Biomass Steam Plant, heralded as a money saver and friend to the environment, failed to live up to its hype operationally, and the U.S. Department of Energy is reportedly trying to renegotiate its deal with the company that performed this and other projects at ORNL under a $90 million Energy Savings Performance Contract.

Johnny Moore, DOE’s site manager at the laboratory, confirmed that operations at the Biomass Steam Plant were shut down last fall after system checks revealed that walls were thinning in some of the key vessels and transfer lines. An analysis determined the walls were eroding because of the presence of “weak organic acids” generated by wood-burning operations that fueled the system, and there were safety concerns, he said.

Creditors Given OK to Foreclose on WA Biofuel Facility

- by Kristi Pihl, August 23, 2014, Tri City Herald

Some of Green Power's Tri-City creditors have received the green light to foreclose on the troubled biofuel company's unfinished Pasco plant.

Franklin County Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell recently approved a request by the creditors to foreclose on the liens they hold against the company's personal property.

Mitchell also approved a priority order for the creditors. A company called Panda Holding, which requested the decision, is first and sixth on the priority list of those who have not been paid yet.

Jose Gonzalez, owner of American Electric of Richland, and James Osterloh of West Richland, who was Green Power's former chief engineer and owner of Concrete Structures, formed Panda Holding to pursue what Green Power owes them.

Both have received court judgments for the debts owed by Green Power. Green Power owes American Electric more than $1 million for electric work on the unfinished Pasco plant. Osterloh says he's owed $4.4 million, including interest.

In total, Green Power still owes nine creditors $6.1 million, including interest, because of liens that were secured on the company's personal property, according to court documents.

California Lawsuit Seeks Pollution Cuts From Massive Tree-burning Power Plant

- by Kevin Bundy, August 22, 2014, Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging a Clean Air Act permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency for a massive, 31-megawatt biomass power plant proposed by Sierra Pacific Industries in Anderson, Calif. The challenge, filed directly in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, charges the EPA with failing to control climate-warming carbon dioxide pollution from the plant.

“Tree-burning power plants foul the air, damage the climate, and threaten our forests,” said Kevin Bundy, a senior attorney with the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “For too long the EPA has acted as if carbon pollution from biomass doesn’t exist. But you can’t fool the atmosphere. Carbon from burning trees still warms the climate.”

The Clean Air Act requires the “best available control technology” for carbon pollution from large facilities like the Anderson plant. The EPA’s permit, however, treated biomass combustion itself as a “control technology” — even though the facility is primarily designed to burn biomass.

“The EPA’s decision makes no sense,” Bundy said. “You can’t control the pollution from burning trees by burning trees, any more than you can control the pollution from burning coal by burning coal.”

Berlin, NH Biomass Incinerator Operational, But At What Cost To Ratepayers?

- by Chris Jensen, August 21, 2014, New Hampshire Public Radio

A new biomass plant in Berlin is finally producing electricity for Public Service of New Hampshire under a controversial 20-year contract that a report says will cost PSNH ratepayers $125 million more than if the electricity was purchased on the open market...

That estimate came from the consulting firm of La Capra Associates which did the report for the state's Public Utilities Commission as part of a wide-ranging review of PSNH’s operations.

In a statement PSNH said the La Capra report isn’t a sure thing because its conclusions are “highly dependent on a number of issues that are uncertain and difficult to predict - the future price of gas, the retirement of other power plants, and new infrastructure development, among other things." 

But La Capra’s conclusions are not unfamiliar to PSNH. The La Capra report echoes warnings the Public Utilities Commission staff and the state’s Office of Consumer Advocate made back in 2011. That’s when the three PUC commissioners considered testimony and dozens of documents as they were considering whether to approve the contract.

Oregon Group Files Civil Rights Complaint Over Biomass Air Pollution

- by Lisa Arkin, August 6, 2014, Beyond Toxics
 
On August 6, Beyond Toxics filed a civil rights and environmental justice complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging the Lane County Regional Air Protection Agency’s decision to allow a power plant to increase its discharges of hazardous particulate matter. The complaint alleges that allowing Seneca Sustainable Energy to increase pollution discharges disproportionately impacts the health of minority and low-income residents of West Eugene. The complaint requests that U.S. EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) invalidate the decision to increase pollutant discharges.
 
Seneca Sustainable Energy’s plant emits fine particulate matter, which is highly dangerous to human health. Exposure to fine particles can affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease, and increase the risk of premature death. Children’s asthma rates in the West Eugene area are almost twice the state average.
 
Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods are disproportionately likely to be minority and low-income (in comparison with other areas of Eugene). The nearby neighborhoods (Bethel-Danebo, Trainsong, and parts of River Road) are also overburdened with industrial pollution, making these residents disproportionately likely to suffer from health effects such as asthma.

Energy Justice Summer: Standing With Communities in the Shalefields

 
This summer youth have gathered in the shale gas region of Northeastern Pennsylvania to facilitate trainings, compile reports, and to fight for the safety of landowners, workers, and the environment.
 
Energy Justice Summer is based in Susquehanna County in order to directly connect with the community members impacted by shale gas development. The program consists of three working teams: research, education and outreach, and community organizing.
 
Charlotte Lewis, a research team member, Scranton native and student at Lackawanna College said, “Rural communities in Pennsylvania are changing from farmland to gas land. When this source of energy is depleted, what industry will we have left to sustain us?”
 
Lewis and her team members have drafted a socioeconomic impact report focusing on poverty indicators and the decline of farm-related income in rural counties with high-volume drilling.
 
The preliminary findings, based on data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, show that counties free of shale gas wells that use at least 15 percent of their acreage as operating farms earned 13.5 percent more from their commodity sales per farm than those in counties with over 100 wells drilled.
 
The report also explores the rise of free and reduced school lunch eligibility in school districts with high density drilling. For example, according to the PA Department of Education, 5 out of 6 school districts in Susquehanna County have seen an increase in eligibility in the past five years; at the same time, over 950 shale gas wells have been drilled.
 
Another series of reports created by the research team includes the history of environmental violations committed by Shell, a international crude oil & gas company. This will be followed by two more reports focusing on Cabot Oil & Gas, and Chesapeake Energy.
 
Sarita Farnelli, education and outreach team member, and a student who grew up in Dimock, PA said, “Fracking made my family's water undrinkable. I'm still afraid to drink our tap water.”
 
Events hosted by the education and outreach team have included a free water quality monitoring workshop in collaboration with the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring at Dickinson College at Salt Springs State Park. In addition, trainings on environmental violations analysis, regulatory appeals, and community organizing.
 
On top of scheduling workshops in Susquehanna County, the community organizing team has worked with residents of Milford Township, PA to halt the compressor station planned for NiSource's East Side Expansion Project. The 9,400 horsepower compressor would connect the Tennessee and Columbia pipelines and is proposed to be built in the vicinity of local homes, schools, and senior centers—despite the threat of respiratory diseases or cancer contributed by venting emissions.
 
When the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to schedule a hearing to answer questions and concerns of local community members, Energy Justice Summer and Clean Air Council teamed up to hold a public hearing on July 9th at the Pike County Public Library in Milford. As a result of this successful meeting, the DEP planned a hearing at 7 pm. on August 18th, at the Delaware Valley High School in Westfall Township.
 
The organizing team has also directed their energy to the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project. The Williams Company Inc. extension would connect to the Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas export terminal and will cross new territory in Susquehanna, Wyoming, Columbia, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Lebanon, Lancaster, Clinton and Luzerne counties.
 
Energy Justice Summer Fellows have met with landowners on the pipeline route to distribute information about the FERC regulatory process and landowner rights. The team is scheduling follow-up landowners' meetings in September with residents who may lose building lots, fruit trees, sugar maple groves, timber sales, and pasture land if the pipeline is approved.
 
Spencer Johnson, from Lancaster, PA, writer, and graduate of Franklin and Marshall College said, “There are a lot of stories and articles about fracking, but to be here on the frontlines, to be in it...the people we are working with are our friends, we want our friends to be protected.”
 
Johnson has written a series of stories based on the testimonials from residents whose health and livelihood have been effected by unconventional shale gas infrastructure, in collaboration with a professional photographer and videographer, Max Grudzinski and Crystal Vander Weit. An interactive web project featuring the stories, photos, and videos of Johnson's team is currently being designed.
 
The team of Energy Justice Summer also includes: Adam Hasz, Alex Lotorto, Allison Petryk, Collin Rees, and Maria Langholz. Energy Justice Summer is a joint project between Energy Justice Network and SustainUs. Energy Justice Network is a non-profit organization committed to providing resources to grassroots organizing groups battling environmental degradation throughout the nation. SustainUS is an internationally-networked nonprofit organization dedicated to offering tools of social and environmental justice to further young peoples' goals toward sustainable development.

Springfield, MA Biomass Incinerator Permit Reinstated

- by Suzanne McLaughlin, August 20, 2014, MassLive

Massachusetts Land Court has granted Palmer Renewable Energy’s request to reinstate its building permit for a biomass wood-burning plant in East Springfield, undoing the Springfield Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision that the building permit was invalid.

The decision states that no special permit is needed and the building permit is reinstated, City Solicitor Edward Pikula said. Pikula said he is still reviewing the decision.

Palmer Renewable Energy proposed building a 35-megawatt, wood-to-energy plant on the grounds of Palmer Paving Co. property near the intersection of Page Boulevard and Cadwell Drive.

August issue of The Biomass Monitor: "The Biomass Industry's Wildfire Scapegoat"

Hot off the presses: the August issue of The Biomass Monitor, the nation's leading publication tracking the health and environmental impacts of "biomass" energy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
...and more!
 
Please share the August 2014 issue of The Biomass Monitor with your friends, colleagues, neighbors, media, and elected officials!
 
Subscribe to monthly email issues of The Biomass Monitor here. 

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