"Waiting for Court Decisions on Weed Biomass Plant"
-- Eco Echo Newsletter
Weed Concerned Citizens and Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center members are now awaiting two court decisions, for our challenges to the permits the county granted for Roseburg's Wood-fired Power Plant project in Weed. The 15-Megawatt power plant is slated to be built at the base of Mount Shasta, near downtown Weed, and extremely close to residences and schools. It will burn close to 250 cords of wood per day, emitting hundreds of tons of new air pollutants into the south county airshed.
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"Settlement Sought in Lawsuit re: Biomass Plant - Citizens seek pollution control of 75%, not 35%"
-- Eco Echo Newsletter
After the Board of Supervisors denied our appeal last November, the Ecology Center and Weed Concerned Citizens filed a lawsuit on December 15, citing numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act.
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Guest Opinion -- Mount Shasta Area Newspapers
It seems the community has diverse opinions, as well as misinformation, about the recent lawsuit filed by the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center and Weed Concerned Citizens, challenging the County's approval of Roseburg's Forest Products' proposed wood-fired power plant in downtown Weed. This article sheds light on the sound and solid reasons why citizen groups were compelled to file this suit.
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"Roseburg Biomass Power Plant Appeal Denied, Air quality and noise issues remain a serious concern"
-- Eco Echo Newsletter
The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, in a coalition with two citizens groups, appealed the county's recent approval of Roseburg Forest Products Biomass Project Environmental Impact Report. Our appeal was denied by the Board of Supervisors in a Public Hearing held in Yreka on November 13.
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January 7, 2009
Ecology Center Files Lawsuit to Improve Protections
For Roseburg Weed Biomass Power Plant
The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, along with Weed Concerned Citizens, has filed a lawsuit challenging the county’s approval of a faulty biomass power plant proposed by Roseburg Forest Products in downtown Weed. The county has skimped on essential protections for South County citizens, thereby threatening harm to residents’ health, property values, and quality of life.
Air quality of top concern – serious health impacts
Of top concern is air quality – by burning 250 cords of wood per day, every day, year round, the plant will produce hundreds of tons each year of new, hazardous air pollutants, including 183 tons/yr Nitrogen Oxides, 295 tons/yr Carbon Monoxide, 29 tons/yr Particular Matter, 27 tons/yr Hazardous Air Pollutants, as well as toxic wood dust, a known carcinogen. Nitrogen Oxides are shown to exacerbate asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, and new evidence indicates that it may affect the immune system. The EPA recently issued new warnings and concerns about fine Particulate Matter, especially with regards to women’s health.
Better pollution control technology could
clean up double the amount of pollutants
The project as approved by the county is not “state of the art”, nor “best available technology” – misleading words that can confuse the facts. The county accepted Roseburg’s proposal to use pollution control technology that would reduce the project’s air pollution emissions by only 35%. Yet right now, technology exists – designed especially for wood-fired power plants like this one – that reduces air pollution emissions by 73% – more than double what Roseburg proposes. This is what would be considered “state of the art” air pollution control for this project (known as “RSCR”). Both the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board recommend this technology for the project, which is presently in use in many similar biomass power plants in the United States. But the County gave approval to Roseburg to install the cheaper system that reduces emissions by only 35%.
Roseburg’s consultant performed an “analysis” of the better technology, and deemed it “not feasible” – solely because it costs more money. This analysis was withheld from the public, and never included in the EIR or CEQA process. How can the public be informed when critical documents such as this are withheld from the CEQA process?
We support projects that comply with environmental laws
– this one does not
The Ecology Center and Weed Concerned Citizens stand ready to support alternative energy projects and sustainable forestry projects that comply with environmental laws – laws that are in place to protect citizens’ health and quality of life, as well as our environment. But this power plant as approved by our county DOES NOT. In its present state, it is dangerous, illegal, and poses a grave threat to South County citizens and communities. In addition to the hundreds of tons of new air pollutants yearly, the project will increase dust and noise that are already intolerable, degrade water quality, and significantly impact quality of life in and around Weed.
Wood-fired power plant extremely close to neighborhoods and schools
The power plant sits pretty much in the middle of the town of Weed – surrounded on all four sides by neighborhoods, with the closest residences little more than 200 feet away. The elementary school is only ¼ mile away. It is unprecedented in California to build a wood-fired power plant this close to neighborhoods and schools. Because of this, it is all the more critical that environmental regulations are taken seriously, and strictly followed.
Weed air quality the worst in the county – will get even worse
Weed already has the worst air quality in Siskiyou County, and Roseburg is the biggest stationary polluter in the South County. Depending on the wind direction, pollutants drift north toward Lake Shastina, and south to Mount Shasta as well – there aren’t any boundaries on the air basin we all share.
Goal is not to stop the project – but to improve it
The goal of Weed Concerned Citizens and the Ecology Center is not, and never has been, to “stop” this project. Our goal is to have a safe, environmentally sound biomass plant, which local citizens can live with, and even be proud of. A project such as this has benefits in terms of harnessing a local, renewable supply of energy, and helping clean up the forests of fuel loading. But the EIR is flawed, providing seriously inadequate environmental protections at the expense of county residents. The County is allowing Roseburg to externalize the true costs of this power plant to others, when the corporation has the means – and the moral responsibility – to make it as clean as possible. And it’s the County’s job to see that that happens. They have fallen short.
Multi-million profits for Roseburg – at Weed citizens’ expense?
Roseburg has acknowledged that this project will earn the company many millions in profits each year, and will add a few jobs to the local economy. Of course, our communities benefit from strong, thriving businesses, and each new job created is important. But what is this worth if the project brings harm and loss to the thousands of people who live in and around Weed?
Siskiyou County’s failure to adequately address these concerns has compelled local citizens to take this issue to the courts. We represent hundreds of local residents who are extremely concerned about further deterioration of air quality, and quality of life in South County. Our lawsuit argues for proper enforcement of the Clean Air Act, state environmental laws, and Siskiyou County’s own General Plan guidelines.
No baseline air data for Weed – project emissions underestimated
In addition to inferior air pollution control technology outlined earlier, the EIR did not even supply essential baseline air pollution measurements for Weed. Also, the quantity of air pollutants from the project was grossly underestimated. Instead of starting with current actual emissions, Roseburg’s consultants used much higher numbers, so that the project’s increase in emissions appears smaller than it will be. The EIR is flawed for using these incorrect baseline emissions, and has the effect of disguising the true air pollution impacts, in an attempt to justify the cheaper pollution control equipment.
New health risk discovered – Legionnaire’s Disease
The EIR did not inform the public about the risk of deadly Legionnaire’s disease, from the Legionella bacteria common to cooling towers, (such as this project has), that can travel up to 4 miles from the stacks and still remain infectious. Legionnaire’s disease is a flu-like illness that can cause death. OSHA estimates that 25,000 cases of the disease occur in the USA each year, and that the disease has up to a 40% death rate. It is caused by Legionella bacteria, which is found in 60% of all industrial cooling towers, such as this project has. But the EIR did not disclose this risk as required by CEQA, nor test the project’s water supply for the bacteria, nor offer any mitigation measures for this risk.
Noise impacts in the nearby community already exceed maximum allowed noise standards, and will become worse, but the county approved the project with grossly inadequate noise reduction mitigations. Residents already suffer serious health issues and lack of sleep from Roseburg’s nearby veneer operations. But the new project will be significantly noisier, with added electric turbine, fans, and chippers and other heavy equipment that will operate 24 hours per day, to manage the mountains of biomass wood chips. There are easy solutions here, such as adding sound insulation to buildings and around certain equipment, or building a noise wall. Instead, residents are being forced to endure noise, day and night, even further beyond what is legally permitted.
Dust. The decaying biomass piles generate ‘fugitive emissions’ – dust clouds – that now inundate nearby neighborhoods, especially when the wind blows. Uncovered piles of wood chips decompose over time, releasing fine wood dust emissions into the air, which has been a frequent and sore complaint of neighbors downwind. These fugitive emissions will greatly increase with the project, with new massive piles of decaying, uncovered biomass. Despite numerous complaints from neighbors, no mitigation methods are offered to control this, such as covering or otherwise managing the piles to reduce emissions.
Greenhouse gas emissions are inadequately accounted for and addressed in the EIR, and no meaningful mitigations offered, although the power plant will burn 100,000 tons of wood chips each year (11 tons per hour), add dozens of new diesel truck loads daily, and remove stored carbon from forests, now known to be an important global carbon sink.
Job layoffs are from the slow economy, not this lawsuit
We are all facing an economic downturn, and Roseburg like many other businesses initiated some layoffs recently – well before this lawsuit existed. Those decisions were no doubt based on the nation’s recession and decreased spending on building products. It is disappointing that the county or Roseburg would attempt to blame these layoffs on this citizens’ lawsuit, when clearly larger economic forces are at cause.
Solutions - There is a solution – the lawsuit can be dropped immediately if the County and Roseburg step up to the plate by requiring adequate protections for Weed. We suggest that instead of spending money on attorneys, that Roseburg invest their money in adequate environmental mitigations for the project. The county can require Roseburg to install the superior RSCR air pollution control technology, that cleans up more than twice the pollutants than the cheaper one they approved. Install sound insulation measures around the buildings and noisy equipment so neighbors can sleep at night. Test the water for Legionella bacteria, and adopt a monitoring and treatment plan that minimizes its risk. Make sure all blow down water is not polluting the local streams – the EIR does not state where thousands of gallons per day of this waste water ends up.
The citizens of Weed and South County deserve to have clean air to breathe, and environmental protections that preserve their quality of life. Filing this lawsuit is citizens’ only recourse at this point to insist the County adhere to the laws that are in place to protect its residents, and the environment in which we live.
We can have jobs, a thriving economy, and a healthy environment
We want this biomass project to be good for Roseburg, the community, and the environment. Our intention is that Roseburg continue with a viable project, citizens enjoy a cleaner, healthier community, jobs are created, local sources of energy are safely developed, and the environment and public health are protected.
Polarization in the community doesn’t serve any of us. We can have jobs, a thriving economy, and a healthy environment. They are not mutually exclusive. By working cooperatively together, we can create better solutions to our common challenges.