Hawaii's Only Coal-fired Power Plant May Switch to Biomass

- by Duane Shimgawa, August  28, 2014,  Pacific Business News

The only coal-fired power plant in Hawaii, which is the single largest generating plant on Oahu, is under financial stress because there is no financial reserve, according to the Hawaiian Electric Co.'s new energy plan released this week.

Hawaiian Electric is also asking AES Hawaiito convert some of the energy being produced at the plant in Campbell Industrial Park to biomass from coal

Given the potential financial impact of an interruption of service associated with a financial default of AES Hawaii, HECO said it has been negotiating in good faith with the company to explore the possibility of an amendment to the power purchase agreement that would make financial sense to AES Hawaii and ratepayers.

As part of the ongoing negotiations for the change in the power purchase agreement, the state’s largest electric utility has asked AES Hawaii to convert some or all of the energy produced at the facility from coal to biomass, possibly from black pellets made from wood.

Amid Oil and Gas Boom, Colorado Continues Role as Earthquake Lab

- by Kevin Simpson, August  31, 2014,  The Denver Post

From the living room chair where he sat reading around half past 9 on a May evening, Ron Baker heard the boom and felt his century-old Greeley farmhouse shudder, sending a menagerie of plastic horses toppling from a bedroom shelf.

He stepped out the back door and aimed a flashlight at the thick, ancient cottonwood that leans over the roof, expecting to reveal a snapped limb as the culprit. But he circled the house and found nothing amiss.

About a half-mile down the county road, Judy Dunn had been sitting in bed watching TV when she felt her brick ranch house shake and heard the windows rattle, making her wonder if an oil or gas well had blown.

A few miles away in the city, Gail Jackson joined neighbors spilling out into the street, wondering if a plane crash had triggered the big bang and sudden vibration that dissipated as quickly as it arrived.

Marcellus Shale Drillers Under-Reported Waste

- by Anya Litvak and Maxwell Radwin, August 31, 2014, The Post-Gazette

EQT Corp. told the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that it sent 21 tons of drill cuttings from its Marcellus Shale wells to area landfills in 2013.

But landfills in southwestern Pennsylvania told a different story.

Six facilities in this part of the state reported receiving nearly 95,000 tons of drill cuttings and fracking fluid from the Downtown-based oil and gas operator last year.

The landfills' records are the correct ones, said Mike Forbeck, waste management director with the DEP. He said the agency has opened an investigation into drillers' under-reporting of landfill waste.

The EQT case — 21 tons vs. 95,000 tons — may be the most dramatic example of how data submitted by oil and gas operators don't match up to reporting required of landfills. The DEP said it has been aware of the problem for "a number of months" and is looking into why the different reporting channels aren't yielding the same results.

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.

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