Tuesday, May 26, 2015

BIOMASS: A Bad Contract

March 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Hot Topics, Local Info

Thanks to Mr. Mac McEachern for the following commentary. 

The biomass plant is NOT a “done deal”! We must continue to fight against it. Stop the Biomass Plant yard signs are available-please contact Mac McEachern at  imac@cox.net for information.


Pegeen Hanrahan as a Guest Columnists to the Gainesville Sun (3/16/11)
said in part: …”American Renewable did not want the financial
details of their contract released to their competitors, or to
negatively impact the cost of construction or operation.”

She is articulate but loose with facts, at least with this one,
shedding doubt on much of the remainder of the article.

The contract is actually with Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, LLC
(GREC) not American Renewable. Makes you wonder who the secret
negotiations were with. GREC agreed to release the secret contract when
the legal actions are dismissed. By this action, using the secrecy as a
pawn, they have indicated beyond any doubt that the need to keep
information from competitors was false.

Many have concluded it was to protect incumbent commissioners and the
candidate Pegeen supports so strongly in this city election.

Compounding the public concern the negotiations were also behind closed

Public Service Commission approval was rife with political maneuvering.
The PSC did not follow statutory standards and the vote was a narrow
3-2. The PSC is supposed to protect ratepayers against high cost and
risky endeavors. Litigants report that although the PSC explicitly
stated that the GREC project contained both, the PSC ignored its own
findings in granting the need certification.

Most disturbing, in this day and time, Pegeen expects the public to
accept the word of politicians, without question, on matters of
financial concern that will affect them many years into the future.


One Response to “BIOMASS: A Bad Contract”
  1. Sam Twain says:

    The Gainesville SUN published an excellent column by Josh Schlossberg on March 28th. Mr. Schlossberg shows that Vermont’s McNeil tree burning biomass incinerator, the model for Gainesville’s unneeded 500 million dollar boondoggle, is a far cry from “clean and green” as claimed by former mayor Pegeen Hanrahan and the city commissioners.
    Typically, the SUN’s editorial page editor removed some of Mr. Schlossberg’s most important information regarding the McNeil facility.

    Mr. Schlossberg’s column can be read in full below


    Vermont’s McNeil biomass incinerator isn’t much of a model

    As a resident of Vermont studying the impacts of the McNeil biomass power incinerator in Burlington, VT, I was surprised to hear former Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan holding up McNeil as a “model” for a 100-megawatt incinerator proposed for Gainesville. Her quote that McNeil has “operated successfully, and helped sustain healthy forests in that part of Vermont, for over two decades,” makes me curious upon what evidence she bases her praise.

    Biomass power incinerators, such as McNeil and the other 255 facilities operating in the US, have considerable impacts on not only forests, but also public health, greenhouse gas emissions, and our nation’s transition to a genuinely clean (non-smokestack) renewable energy future—major issues that Ms. Hanrahan ignores.

    Let’s start with public health: According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent National Emissions Inventory Database, McNeil incinerator’s smokestack emits 75 different air pollutants, including dioxin, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, chlorine, heavy metals, and particulate matter (PM) 2.5—the latter, an unfilterable pollutant so small it can lodge deep in the lungs, bloodstream, and internal organs, to which American Cancer Society studies demonstrate there is no safe level of exposure.

    A 2000 report by Vermont Sierra Club, “Impacts of McNeil Station,” documented a slew of complaints from nearby residents over the years, including “nauseating stack emissions,” “fugitive dust emissions,” “pungent odors,” spontaneous combustion of wood chip piles, potential groundwater contamination from wood chip leachate (including toxic pollutants), and “disturbing noise and vibrations.”

    Aside from PM 2.5, residents complained of “fugitive dust emissions” getting inside their homes and cars, coating their yards, and according to one resident, collecting in the ears of her child. There have also been several reports of asthma cases clearing up as soon as residents move out of the area. The “Impacts” report called for additional testing of particulate matter, which to our knowledge, has not been conducted. Calls for groundwater testing have similarly been ignored.

    As Japan endures the tragedy of the Fukushima nuclear reactor and the west coast of the US worries about radioactive plumes drifting across the Pacific, it’s worth noting that one of the radioactive isotopes posing such a threat, Cesium-137, is being constantly emitted from the smokestacks of biomass incinerators while concentrating in its ash, according to public health scientist, former nuclear plant operator, and radiological engineer Stewart Farber of Connecticut. The Cesium had been absorbed by trees following open-air testing of nuclear bombs in the 50’s and 60’s.

    In a June 2009 letter to the Greenfield, Mass. Zoning Board regarding a proposed biomass power incinerator, Farber urges that any corporation looking to build a biomass incinerator “make a basic set of measurements to assess the radioactivity content of the wood which will be used to feed the boilers, of the Cs-137 which might be released in the stack gas emissions once the facility begins operation, and which will be present in the thousands of tons of bottom and fly ash.”

    While the levels of Cesium-137 from biomass incineration are certainly nowhere near what is being released from the Fukushima reactor, currently neither the smokestack emissions nor the ash of the McNeil incinerator are tested.

    Now, onto forests: McNeil requires roughly 400,000 green tons of wood per year, cut not only from the forests of Vermont, but also within a 300-mile radius covering New York, Massachusetts, Quebec and New Hampshire—including from clearcuts up to 25 acres (football fields) in size. Complicating matters, McNeil also burns natural gas—yet if the 50-megawatt facility were fueled by 100% wood (as many biomass incinerators are), it would require the annual equivalent of 9,000 clearcut acres of forests, or 25 acres of clearcuts a day (13,000 green tons/megawatt). Go ahead and double that for Gainesville’s proposed incinerator.

    The levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the form of CO2 released from a 50-megawatt incinerator’s smokestack is roughly 650,000 tons per year (1 green ton of wood=1 ton of CO2) , the same as over 100,000 new cars added to the road, according to the EPA. Again, double this for Gainesville—the same as every single city resident (man, woman, and child) driving around two additional brand new cars all year.

    Before Ms. Hanrahan endorses a biomass power incinerator such as Vermont’s McNeil facility as a model for Gainesville, I would respectfully suggest she first cite some data as to the actual impacts on public health, climate and forests. If studies aren’t available, I hope she’d take that uncertainty into account before offering up Gainesville residents as guinea pigs in the risky science experiment known as biomass power incineration.

    Josh Schlossberg

    Forest Commissioner, Town of East Montpelier, Vermont

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!