November 2015
Volume 6, Issue 11


Biomass Energy Growing Pains
(November 2015)

Biomass Energy Growing Pains

- by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

Several biomass power facilities have come online over the last few years in Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, and Hawaii, but not without difficulties, including fires, inefficient equipment, lawsuits, and competing with the low price of natural gas.

Eagle Valley Clean Energy, an 11.5-megawatt biomass power facility in Gypsum, Colorado started operating in December 2013, only to have its conveyor belt catch fire in December 2014. Spokespersons said the facility would be back online shortly, yet as of October, it's still offline. There have been no further media reports investigating why the facility still isn't operating, and multiple calls and emails to the facility from The Biomass Monitor were not returned.


Another thorn in Eagle Valley's claw is a lawsuit filed against the company in U.S. District Court in June 2015 by Wellons, Inc., an Oregon-based corporation that designed and built the biomass facility.

Wellons is suing Eagle Valley Clean Energy for $11,799,864 for breach of contract, accusing the company of "fraudulent transfers" and "civil conspiracy," involving the transferring of $18.5 million of federal subsidies to "insider" parties in an alleged effort to hide the money. The money was issued to the facility from the federal government under Section of 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the Stimulus, involving payments to reimburse companies building renewable energy facilities.

Wellons claims that, on top of the nearly twelve million dollars Eagle Valley must pay them, they are owed past due interest of $1,185,433.56, with debt accruing at $3254.90 per day.

Another bump in the road for Eagle Valley involves the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the logging contractor that provides them the trees to fuel the facility, West Range Reclamation. West Range has provided nearly all of the wood to the facility since it opened, mostly from beetle-killed lodgepole pine from the White River National Forest.



Minneapolis Burning

- by Ryan Stopera, Southwest Journal

In Minnesota garbage is considered biomass and is in the same category as renewable energy, which includes the sun and the wind. Think about that. Covanta, the global trash incineration giant thrives off of a narrative of turning your garbage into electricity by burning it into "renewable energy." What isn't communicated to the public is what ends up in the air as a result of this dirty process and the alternatives we have to managing our waste.

Trash incineration at the HERC, which includes burning toxic materials such as tires and batteries as well as plastic recyclables, creates alarming amounts of hazardous emissions. The smog that floats over Target Field into North Minneapolis contains extremely harmful pollutants including nitrogen and sulfur oxides, mercury and dioxins. Dioxins are highly toxic environmental pollutants that cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.

Caleb Hannan of Politico recently wrote an article praising Minneapolis' trash incineration as such a brilliant solution to waste management that I almost forgot what it actually is. Burning garbage. If setting our trash on fire and emitting toxic chemicals into the air is our most progressive approach to this global problem in a time when climate change is one of the most pressing concerns of continuing our existence, then the human race has not evolved as much as we had believed. The truth is we can and we must do better.



Minneapolis' HERC Incinerator A Major Air Polluter

- by Lara Norkus-Crampton

According to the Energy Justice Network's (EJN) analysis of the most recent 2011 National Emissions Inventory (NEI) data self-reported to the EPA by the garbage incinerator industry, HERC is:

  • #1 in arsenic emissions (31% of the emissions from 65 incinerators reporting)
  • #2 in chromium VI emissions (19% of the emissions from 62 reporting)
  • #2 in chromium III emissions (23% of the emissions from 56 reporting)
  • #3 in nickel emissions (11% of the emissions from 64 reporting)
  • #5 in condensable particulate matter.

Mike Ewall, director of EJN, concluded, "These high rankings for toxic emissions are significant because HERC ranks as the 38th largest incinerator in the U.S. They report 1.5 million pounds of emissions for 2011. This is a very dirty incinerator."

Some might recall that South Minneapolis has a history of arsenic soil contamination related to another former local polluter and severe enough that the impacted area was declared the South Minneapolis Neighborhood Soil Contamination Superfund Site. Remediation included the removal of approximately 62,000 cubic yards of soil from impacted residences, according to the CDC.

According to EJN analysis of point sources of emissions (from a single location) in Hennepin County summarized in the latest National Emissions Inventory, Ewall ranks HERC as the No. 1 source of Condensable Particulate Matter (PM), the No. 2 source of Primary PM 2.5, and the No. 3 source of Primary PM 10 in Hennepin County.

In 2013 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported to the legislature that PM2.5 emissions from Minnesota sources of pollution caused 1,000 deaths in the metro area annually, 220 respiratory ER visits, 460 non-fatal heart attacks and 78,000 work loss days valued at $13 million. This is just one type of pollution impacting the metro region.


The Biomass Monitor is the nation's leading publication investigating the whole story on bioenergy, biomass, and biofuels. We accept submissions at thebiomassmonitor AT


Josh Schlossberg, Mike Ewall, and Samantha Chirillo

Editors, The Biomass Monitor

For subscriptions, blog, and back issues go to:



- by Josh Schlossberg, Editor

Aside from controversies swirling around air pollution, carbon emissions, and ecosystem impacts, biomass facilities have other crosses to bear, ranging from accidents, to faulty technology, to simple economics.

Most Americans are in favor of transitioning from fossil fuels and nuclear power to a clean energy economy, yet few are aware that bioenergy makes up half of the "renewable" energy in the U.S. As more and more bioenergy facilities come online, the public, elected officials, and government agencies must carefully weigh the pros and cons.

Communities in Lakeview, Oregon and Taylor County, Florida facing new biomass energy proposals should pay close attention to some of the difficulties that have plagued recently built biomass facilities, as our lead article in the November issue of The Biomass Monitor reveals. While every bioenergy proposal is somewhat unique, there are many similarities, and to ignore the track records of existing facilities is simply bad business.

Unfortunately, most environmental groups won't talk much about bioenergy, and when they do, they only focus on a small piece of the puzzle, typically biomass power facilities -- just 11% of bioenergy in the U.S. In response, media doesn't adequately cover the topic, which keeps the public uninformed, which means minimal pressure on elected officials to investigate the issue.

Whatever your take on bioenergy, biomass, and biofuels, it's in your best interest to get your facts straight...which just so happens to be the mission of The Biomass Monitor. If you haven't already, subscribe to free, monthly issues, follow daily news updates on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.



Top 10 Bioenergy Stories in the News

Follow The Biomass Monitor on Facebook and Twitter for daily bioenergy updates.

1. Wisconsin Biomass Power Facility to Close

2. Biomass Power Facility Proposed for Taylor County, Florida

3. Biofuels Makers May Have Known About Volkswagen Emissions Rigging for Years

4. Chesapeake, Virginia Ordinance Could Allow Trash Incinerator

5. Biofuels Try to Snap Out of Dormant Phase

6. Biofuel from Toxic Fracking Wastewater?

7. Greenfield, Mass. To Regulate Wood Stoves?

8. Switching to 20% Biomass Could Keep Coal Plant From Closing

9. Ethanol Tanker Cars Derail, Catch Fire in South Dakota

10. Missouri Residents Evacuated for Ethanol Fire



An On-the-Ground Look at Logging for Bioenergy

Not everyone knows forests are one of the main fuel sources for biomass energy facilities. And fewer still have seen what projects look like on the ground.

Join The Biomass Monitor on Thursday, November 19 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ETwhere we speak with Howard Brown, one of many residents of Summit County, Colorado fighting to keep the White River National Forest from clearcutting along world class hiking/skiing/biking trails to fuel the Eagle Valley Clean Energy facility in Gypsum. 

RSVP on Facebook and email thebiomassmonitor [AT] for call in number.

Download the audio file for October's call, "Incinerators vs. Landfills."