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September 2011 - Volume 2, Issue 9

THE BIOMASS MONITOR is published by the Biomass Accountability Project, Biofuelwatch, Energy Justice Network, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and Save America's Forests.

Managing Editors: Rachel Smolker & Meg Sheehan
Editor & Journalist: Josh Schlossberg

For submissions, PDF copies, or to become a distributor contact us at thebiomassmonitor [at] gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

In This Issue
State Lines
Our Health
Source Watch
Letter to the Editor
From the Editor
Biomass Buster of the Month
Eye on D.C.
Take Action!
State Lines

Groups Appeal Air Permit for Port Angeles, WA Biomass Power

July 21, 2011  No Biomass Burn and six other environmental groups are appealing the air permit decision by the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA), charging that the agency colluded with Nippon Paper to grossly understate toxic pollution from a 20-megawatt biomass power proposal under construction in Port Angeles, Washington.

Carcinogenic formaldehyde from Nippon's project would be emitted at rates nearly ninety times greater than ORCAA's permit shows, according to analysis conducted by a nationally renowned air quality engineer hired by the appellants.

Benzene, also a carcinogen, would be emitted at levels six times greater than reported levels, while VOC's (volatile organic compounds) would be emitted in "substantially higher amounts" than the permit shows, according to Badgley.

If allowed to stand, the lower pollution estimates would let Nippon avoid more rigorous government regulations and more expensive and effective pollution controls.

Lake Tahoe, California Biomass Power Proposal Relocated

August 4, 2011  The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) rejected siting a 3-megawatt biomass power proposal on Lake Tahoe's north shore in favor of a site a half mile off the western shore, following opposition by local citizen groups.

"The grassroots effort was just one piece of the puzzle," said Dawn Baffone of The Lake Tahoe Anti-Biomass Plant Coalition, "but was a big factor in keeping the plant out of this residential area in Kings Beach."

An environmental analysis revealed a "noise impact that cannot be mitigated," at the original Kings Beach site, according to an August 9, 2011 letter from TRPA board chair, Norma Santiago.

The new Cabin Creek site, which houses existing industrial operations, including a recycling facility, is within the Mountain Counties Air Basin, which is in non-attainment for federal clean air standards.

Friends of Lake Tahoe argues in a document posted on its website that the air quality issue could be resolved by reclassifying Cabin Creek as within the Eastern County Nevada Air Basin, which is currently in attainment. 

Biomass Power Developers Push Back in Springfield, Massachusetts

The developers of a proposed 35-megawatt biomass power incinerator for Springfield, Mass. have filed a lawsuit claiming the Springfield City Council acted with "either bad faith or at least gross negligence" when it voted 10-2 to revoke a special permit for building the facility in May.

Palmer Renewable Energy is asking the Land Court in Boston to annul the City Council permit revocation, to award "costs," and to "grant such further relief as this court deems just and proper."

The City Council "carefully considered the issues and made sure they had the legal basis for revoking the permit," said Springfield resident Steve Dzubak. "I have confidence in them, and I have every confidence that they will prevail in court as having exercised their rights and responsibilities."

Shortly after the City Council decision, on July 1, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued an Air Quality Permit for the proposed Springfield facility.

Our Health
Pediatrician Worried About Biomass

Below are excerpts from a letter written by Norma Kreilein, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in Jasper, Indiana in response to "Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States," a recent report by Physicians for Social Responsibility and NRDC.

I am writing as a concerned pediatrician in Southern Indiana. We live in the heart of the power plant belt of the Midwest. For many years I have suspected that our local pollution is greatly responsible for our high rate of inflammatory processes, malignancies, and increasing rates of autism.

For the past several months I have been trying to fight the addition of a biomass plant to our city. The city has long been an industrial base with many wood factories, so there has apparently been a high VOC [volatile organic compounds] load.

Strong opposition was voiced from the time it was publicly mentioned, but the city has pushed the plant through anyway. Much manipulation of emission data has occurred (averaging emissions out over the whole county to make them appear insignificant) but, ironically, one of the more interesting arguments is that the plant, though polluting and within 1/2 mile of a residential neighborhood, should nonetheless be built because the plant will decrease our dependence on coal fired plants.

Biomass combustion is being sold to communities around the country by high pressure, ambiguous, unscrupulous carpetbaggers who promise "jobs" and "green energy" but are vacuuming precious federal funds to produce expensive energy that will never solve our dependence on foreign oil nor make our air any cleaner.

The ultimate problem is that the same monitors and regulators that fail to close down coal plants will do no better with biomass. We will just spend more and think we feel better about it.

Source Watch

North Carolina Court: Burning Whole Trees for Biomass "Renewable"
(source: Bioenergy News, Aug. 4, 2011)

Whole trees, including trees from old-growth forests, are "renewable" energy, according to a ruling from the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

The ruling denied an appeal by the Environmental Defense Fund and Southern Environmental Law Center of a North Carolina Utilities Commission decision to allow Duke Energy to receive "renewable energy credits" for burning whole trees for electricity.

"Any resource that can be considered a biomass [sic] because it is organic and renewable is a biomass resource within the plain meaning of the statute," ruled Judge Steelman. "All wood fuel meets these criteria and thus is a 'biomass resource' and a 'renewable energy resource.'"

Clearcut outside of Green Swamp, N. Carolina

(Photo: Abigail Singer)

Biomass Energy Colonialism?

A recent industry report says that imports of wood pellets into Europe rose 40% between 2009 and 2010. August saw the formation of a partnership between Enviva and Biomass Energy to supply more than 350,000 tons of pellets and chips over the next three years from a new facility in Virginia--their second in the state.

Enviva also has facilities in Mississippi and North Carolina. To facilitate exports, the company has purchased a deepwater port and is constructing a storage silo in Virginia. Enviva also leases port space in Alabama.

Others are jumping on the pellet bandwagon. RWE Innogy has constructed a massive pellet facility, capable of producing 750k tons per year in Georgia, to provide pellets for their Tilbury power station in UK, which plans to convert from burning coal to forest pellets. Growing resistance to import-dependent facilities and policies is evident, but much more is needed to stem the flow of pelletized forests to European burners.

Letter to the Editor

Please send Letters to the Editor (150 words) to thebiomassmonitor [at] gmail.com.

Dear Editor,

I loved the piece on night solar electric generation in Spain ["Solar at Night?', August 2011]. What they do in Spain, we can do in much of the Southern US.  Our household has been converted from compact fluorescents to LEDs and we have realized an energy and money savings with every electric bill. Reasonably-priced LEDs can be purchased on eBay, at Lowe's and Sam's Clubs.

Innovation, conservation and efficiency are possible now! We need not burn another thing to produce electricity, especially our forests!

-Tom Kruzen
Mountain View, Missouri

From the Editor

Rachel Smolker, Managing Editor

As usual, summer flew by way too fast. The East Coast has just been slammed by Hurricane Irene, while Texas and other southern states are turning to dust under siege of drought. Just some of the nagging reminders that global warming is rapidly gaining momentum.

The halls of Congress may be inhabited by climate deniers and there may be little expectation for international negotiations to be effective, but local organizing remains red hot and the biomass battles going on across the country are a great example. People are demanding real solutions--not false accounting that pretends burning trees is "carbon neutral, clean and green." The legal challenges going on around the country--including the recently filed appeal against Nippon Paper's biomass power proposal in Port Angeles, Washington, are putting on the brakes on biomass and mobilizing resistance.

Travel out to Washington State and you've got to be shocked and outraged by the level of deforestation--largely flat out clearcutting, even on steep slopes. The magnificent temperate rainforests--a planetary treasure trove of biodiversity and carbon sequestration--are disappearing! Now the biomass industry wants to escalate the cutting?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that healthy living growing forests are good for the climate and good for us--burning them is not. Let's hope the coming year will see common sense "trickle up."

Biomass Buster of the Month

Duff Badgley - Washington

Based in Seattle, Duff has helped lead the charge against seven biomass power facilities proposed for his beloved, forested state of Washington.

Duff was a key organizer for the defeat of a 65-megawatt proposal for Shelton, and is currently embroiled in three separate appeals against biomass power proposals for Port Townshend, Longview, and Port Angeles, among other efforts.

"Our victories are many. Savor them. They are sweet and can give us the strength to fight on," says Badgley. "I am buoyed by my comrades around the country fighting in the trenches with me against biomass power."

Eye on D.C.

Liquid Biofuel Expansion

President Obama, always enthusiastic about biofuels, recently announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Agriculture, and the Navy will invest up to $510 million to develop "drop in" marine and aviation biofuels for commercial and military transportation, to be matched in kind by investment from the private sector. This announcement came on the heels of $12 million granted for bioenergy crop research. These announcements were, as usual, couched in rhetoric about biofuels addressing America's future "energy security."

Bioenergy can never provide more than a very small proportion of our overall energy demands. For example, the US Energy Information Administration projects that ethanol could, optimistically, account for a whopping 7.6 percent of the total gasoline pool (by volume) by 2030. In an editorial, Robert Bryce points out that in 2011, the US will use about 40 percent of its corn crop to produce the energy equivalent of 0.6 percent of global oil demands.

Nonetheless, the DOE rhetoric states that "scientists in the US have already paved the way for biofuels to supplement and eventually even replace oil in the coming decades." Really? How much corn and tree-chips would that take?

Bioenergy--from ethanol to wood pellets--entails huge costs to the environment, displaces food production, wastes water, and destroys forests and biodiversity, all for a very small energy return.

Take Action!

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Flywheels for Energy Storage
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle, July 11, 2011

The technology contained in a new, first-of-its-kind 20-megawatt flywheel energy storage facility in Stephentown, New York, has the potential to make renewable sources of power such as wind and solar even more viable in the coming decades.

Located on seven acres within a couple of miles of the Massachusetts state line, the 3.5 acre storage facility consumes no fuel and creates no emissions by using flywheels housed in nearly frictionless containers.

Using kinetic energy, the flywheels absorb or inject electricity to relieve the grid of excess electricity or to pump up power in the grid during high-usage times.

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