Pressure builds around biomass burner initial approval



Posted on December 7, 2010 at 7:55 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 7 at 7:55 PM

PORT ANGELES, Wash. --  As a proposed biomass burner in Port Angeles gets closer to approval the community reacts with concerns. Citizen groups are challenging the city's initial approval of the project which would burn wood to make electricity.

The Nippon Paper mill is a landmark on the Port Angeles waterfront. For 90 years it has provided local jobs and paper sent around the globe. But now the company wants to take the mill into a new technological age.

"This project will produce about 20 megawatts on average of green energy," said Harold Norlund.

Nippon wants to get into the energy business by replacing its aging boiler with a new one capable of making heat for the plant and electricity for the grid.

"We're actually going with newer technology, something that's higher efficiency, lower air emissions; helps retain the jobs that we have," said Harold Norlund.

A coalition, which consists of seven environmental groups, is challenging the initial approval of the project. They aren’t worried as much about the volume of emissions coming from the proposed plant, as what's in it.

"The information they are giving us about pollutants from the stacks doesn't mention things like dioxins and furans that are commonly released in these kinds of plants," said Diana Somerville.

The Port Angeles plan is one of several projects proposed across the country facing serious challenges from citizens groups.

The study of biomass emissions is in its infancy but the concept of efficiently burning leftover timber from logging operations is very popular. Currently that slash is burned in the field with no emissions control.
But until there is complete certainty there is no risk to public health, groups will continue to challenge each big project that comes along.

A similar legal battle is shaping over a proposed biomass burner in the Shelton area.