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.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Beetle-Kill Fuels Bioenergy

- by Kelly Hatton, July 17, 2014, Western Confluence

On a morning in early March, I ride with Cody Neff, owner of West Range Reclamation (WRR), in his truck from Frisco, Colorado, to the company’s nearby worksite in the White River National Forest. Light is just starting to reach over the high snow-covered slopes surrounding Frisco, but Neff is awake and ready to talk. He tells me that originally it was a love of cattle, not forests, that brought him west to the University of Wyoming, where he studied rangeland ecology while raising beef on a piece of leased land outside Laramie. Now, fifteen years later, he’s running a fifty-employee company and supervising forestry projects on Colorado’s Front Range and in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest. It’s a position he didn’t necessarily imagine for himself, but one that he has taken on with enthusiasm.

Neff and wife, Stephanie—who Neff credits for his success—started WRR in 2001. They saw a need for what Neff calls responsible and beneficial rangeland and forest management.

From behind the steering wheel, Neff interrupts himself to point out areas on the slopes where the company has completed projects. As he steers up the rough road, he takes phone calls, fields questions, and jots notes for himself on the pad of paper nested in the truck’s console.

When we turn off the main highway and bump slowly along the temporary dirt road that winds up the mountain, Neff points out tightly packed, small-diameter lodgepole pine as illustrative of the problems of this forest. The stands of thin trees are all the same species, the same age, and all are competing for the same resources, susceptible to the same pests. These stands are an easy target for bark beetles. Out the passenger window, I see the impact. Dead trees stand like skeletons among the green.

At the road’s end, the forest opens into a clearing where a fleet of machinery cuts, hauls, and chips trees marked by the Forest Service for removal. Neff hands me a hardhat and a neon vest to put on before we walk over to the semi parked on the edge of the clearing.

From Beetle Kill to Biomass

[More industry propaganda than a news article, but it demonstrates the biomass industry's  lust for National Forests to feed their dirty incinerators. -Ed.]

- by Ruth Heide, July 22, 2014, Valley Courier

There’s a different kind of “gold” in “them thar hills.”

It’s in the trees themselves.

Correctly harvested, the beetle kill timber that exists on public and private lands in the San Luis Valley could provide a gold mine for the biomass and other lumber industries while at the same time improving forest health.

Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas told SLV County Commissioners Association officials yesterday there’s half-a-million acres of primarily spruce and fir in the Rio Grande National Forest alone that could be culled out. He said he has been trying to get something going to get rid of the dead trees during his entire tenure here, but it took columns of smoke that could be seen from Nebraska last year to really get people’s attention.

Tulsa, OK Chooses Incineration Over Composting

- by Jarrel Wade, August 6, 2014, Tulsa World

Trash board members voted Tuesday to begin the process of seeking bids for contractors to pick up curbside green waste and take it to the city’s burn plant.

The recently introduced plan from the Tulsa Authority for Recovery of Energy is to send green waste to the city’s burn plant permanently, essentially ending Tulsa’s curbside green-waste program as it was originally promised.

The TARE board vote authorizes staff to invite bids from contractors for board evaluation and possible acceptance at future meetings.

The vote followed discussion about several contractual obligations that hindered implementation of the new plan.

TARE officials have said their goals are to keep costs low, keep the system environmentally responsible and make the trash system simple for customers.

One problem is that the city would be forced to continue requiring that green waste be put in clear plastic bags even though it likely would go in the same trucks to the same location as trash.

The contract with the city’s haulers, NeWSolutions, requires that green waste be in a separate waste stream, TARE attorney Stephen Schuller said.

“Competitive bidders could bring a lawsuit on such a fundamental change,” he said.

Another problem discussed was TARE’s inability to seek bids for contractors to take the green waste to the city’s green-waste facility, which some board members had requested for price comparison.

Schuller said a contract between the board and the burn plant mandates that all green waste — if taken by a TARE contractor — go to the burn plant, owned by Covanta Energy.

Covanta Incineration Deal Discourages Rival Recycling Programs

- Kathleen McLaughlin, August 4, 2014, Indianapolis Business Journal

The city of Indianapolis faces financial penalties if it launches alternative recycling programs, under a pending deal with incinerator operator Covanta.

The Indianapolis Board of Public Works will vote Wednesday on an agreement that’s worth more than $112 million in revenue to Covanta, which would become the city’s main residential recycling provider for the next 14 years.

Covanta is proposing to build a $45 million recycling facility next to its incinerator on Harding Street. Under the deal negotiated by Republican Mayor Greg Ballard's administration, the city would continue to send all household waste to Covanta, but the company would pluck out recyclables and sell them on the commodities market.

Companies that rely on recycled goods oppose the deal because they say Covanta’s facility would generate sub-par material for their industries. But the Department of Public Works says it’s a way to boost the city’s overall recycling rate without requiring residents to sign up for a separate curbside service.

Curbside recycling is currently available for an additional monthly fee through Republic Services, but participation is low.

Democrats on the City-County Council want the city to pursue other alternatives, but that would be impossible under terms of the Covanta deal, which were made available to the Board of Public Works on Friday.

Proposed Incinerator a Bad Choice for Island

- Linda Damas Kelley, August 6, 2014, West Hawaii Today

Just having returned from a monthlong mainland trip, I found that the waste-to-energy controversy has reached a boiling point. I just read recent commentaries by Hunter Bishop and Nelson Ho; like them, I too worked for the Department of Environmental Management during the Mayor Harry Kim administration. If nothing has changed in the incineration world, why are we even having this conversation? In case anyone forgot, the County of Hawaii has a standing Zero Waste Resolution adopted in 2007. A previous County Council voted down incineration because of its forever money-sucking maintenance issues.

So, why is our mayor, if he truly loves the Big Island, insisting on shoving an incinerator down our throats?

USDA Funds Genetic Engineering Research for Switchgrass Biofuels

-  July 24, 2014, Farmers’ Advance

Michigan State University (MSU) plant biologist C. Robin Buell has been awarded $1 million from a joint U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to accelerate genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstock for the production of biofuels, bio-power and bio-based products.

Specifically, the MSU College of Natural Science researcher will work to identify the genetic factors that regulate cold hardiness in switchgrass, a plant native to North America that holds high potential as a biofuel source.

"This project will explore the genetic basis for cold tolerance that will permit the breeding of improved switchgrass cultivars that can yield higher biomass in northern climates," said Buell, also an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. "It's part of an ongoing collaboration with scientists in the USDA Agricultural Research Service to explore diversity in native switchgrass as a way to improve its yield and quality as a biofuel feedstock."

One of the proposed methods to increase the biomass of switchgrass, and therefore its utility as a biofuel, is to grow lowland varieties in northern latitudes, where they flower later in the season.

Chester, PA Residents Air Concerns over Covanta Trash Incineration Plan

UPDATE: despite strong organizing efforts, an outpouring of community opposition and strong research we've compiled to show how awful this plan is, city council voted unanimously on Aug 13th to approve Covanta's plan that allows 30 years of New York City waste to be brought by train to Chester for incineration.  In fact, it'll go through Chester to Wilmington, DE, then will be trucked back into Chester, with five more trucks than they'd normally need since rail boxes are smaller than normal trucks.  It's an insane plan and we'll continue to fight it.  See Chester Environmental Justice for details.

 

-  by Vince Sullivan, July 24, 2014, Delaware County Daily Times

Dozens of city residents attended Wednesday night’s council meeting to voice their opposition to a proposal that would allow the country’s largest trash incinerator to construct additional buildings on its property.

Covanta’s Delaware Valley Resource Recovery Facility, located in the first block of Highland Avenue, is seeking to construct a 16,000-square-foot building that would enable the facility to handle a different kind of truck traffic. The company recently entered into a 20-year contract with New York City to incinerate up to 500,000 tons of municipal waste each year. The waste would be brought from New York to Wilmington, Del., via train and then the rail boxes would be put onto tractor-trailers to be trucked to Chester.

A Covanta vice president attended two planning commission meetings where he explained that the incinerator is not seeking to increase its trash-burning capacity, which is regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, but said the trash from New York would replace other municipal waste sources. He added that because more trash wouldn’t be coming into the facility, the number of trucks driving to the incinerator would not increase. The rail box building would enable the boxes to be removed from the trucks and emptied onto the tipping floor.

The proposal also calls for a 1,000-square-foot office building. The Chester City Planning Comission recommended that city council deny the application.

Biomass Burning Kills 250,000 People a Year

-  by Jo Nova, August 5, 2014, JoanneNova.com.au

The headline at Science Daily is that wildfires and other burns lead to climate change. The paper itself asks: “As such, particle burn-off of clouds may be a major underrecognized source of global warming.” For me what matters are the deaths in the here and now:

“We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning,” Jacobson said. “That means that it causes the premature deaths of about 250,000 people each year.”

 This is similar to Indur Goklany’s conclusion in 2011:

Killing people with “concern”? Biofuels led to nearly 200,000 deaths (est) in 2010.

In a study  published in  Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Indur Goklany calculated the additional mortality burden of biofuels policies and found that nearly 200,000 people died in 2010 alone, because of efforts to use biofuels to reduce CO2 emissions.

Goklany (2011) estimated that the increase in the poverty headcount due to higher biofuel production between 2010 and 2004 implies 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYs in 2010 alone.

Residents Voice New Concerns on Gainesville, FL Biomass Incinerator

-  by Morgan Watkins, August 5, 2014, Gainesville Sun

Local residents worried about the biomass plant showed up Tuesday evening for a public meeting on its draft Title V air operation permit, which could be approved this fall, to make their concerns known.

Folks milled around the Hall of Heroes Community Room at the Gainesville Police Department on Northwest Eighth Avenue, talking over the issues with fellow residents as well as with Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials who were on hand to answer questions.

Several people submitted written comments to the FDEP at the meeting, which was styled as an open house, although others stopped by a table in an adjacent room to give verbal comments instead.

The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center has applied to the FDEP for the five-year permit, which would be effective Jan. 1. This would be its initial Title V permit.

The biomass plant drew complaints of noise, odor and dust issues in the past from residents of the Turkey Creek Golf & Country Club, while government employees who work nearby at Alachua County's Public Works facility complained about odor and dust problems as well.

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