Monday, April 7, 2014

Bangor Daily News: Enviro group's report comes under fire

Environmental group’s report comes under fire after citing Bucksport mill as one of dozens of ‘dirty’ biomass plants

The Verso paper mill in Bucksport on Wednesday.
Gabor Degre | BDN
The Verso paper mill in Bucksport on Wednesday. Buy Photo
Posted April 06, 2014, at 11:32 a.m.
BUCKSPORT, Maine — In the wake of a report publicly released April 2 about biomass-burning power generators, some are criticizing the report and others are defending the use of biofuels as a comparatively “clean” and sustainable technology.
The report from the Partnership for Policy Integrity examines emissions from biomass-burning power generators and criticizes government policies that promote the technology. It claims permitted emissions from biomass-burning facilities such as one at the local Verso Paper mill thatbegan operating in 2012 are “dirtier” than those permitted at modern coal plants.
Critics say the report makes false assumptions and, from a wider environmental standpoint, neglects a key issue — namely, the impact of mining and other practices used to obtain nonrenewable fossil fuels used in other power generation facilities.
Bill Cohen, spokesman for the Bucksport mill, said Wednesday in a brief statement that “bad data and faulty assumptions” have been used in the PFPI report and others like it.
The Biomass Power Association, a trade industry group, had some of the harshest criticism of the report, calling it an “81-page editorial” that demonstrates a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the science surrounding forestry and biomass and the governmental policies that regulate them.

Portland Press Herald: Study cites nonexistent biomass plant at Madison Paper

Study cites nonexistent biomass plant at Madison Paper

The Partnership for Policy Integrity points to 2010 permit for biomass power that was never built at the Maine paper mill.

By Rachel Ohm
Staff Writer
MADISON — A nonexistent biomass boiler at Madison Paper Industries is part of a recently released report that aims to draw attention to the hazards of burning wood for fuel.
click image to enlarge
Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans PAPER PLANT: The Madison Paper mill is among those being criticized by Partnership for Policy Integrity for biomass emissions, but the paper mill never built the biomass operation cited by the group.

The report, released Wednesday by the Partnership for Policy Integrity, blames lack of government oversight for allowing biomass burners to emit more pollution than those that run on coal. It analyzes permits that were granted to 88 sites around the country and it concludes that by burning wood and in some cases, hazardous materials such as tires and construction debris, the permitted companies have contributed to pollution rates exceeding those of the coal industry.

Names of the 88 sites used in the study are not listed, but Mary Booth, director of the partnership and author of the report, said in an interview that a permit for a biomass power plant at Madison Paper Industries was among them.

Officials told the Morning Sentinel in 2010 that the $25 million plant would add a wood boiler to the mill’s oil-fueled ones, cutting the mill’s oil use in half and possibly adding eight to 10 jobs. It was going to use parts of the trees not used in paper-making that the mill discarded and require building a 10,000-square-foot or larger building on about two acres on mill land.

But the Madison Paper biomass plant was never built, mainly because of financial reasons, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Madison Paper officials. The 2010 permit cited in the study was submitted by a Virginia-based company, which at the time was proposing to lease land from Madison Paper and to sell steam to the Maine company.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Biomass Power Association Addresses Inaccurate Report

Rather than a scientific study, the report issued by Partnership for Policy Integrity this week should be regarded as an 81-page editorial. It showcases a fundamental misunderstanding of the science surrounding forestry and biomass, and a lack of familiarity with the state and federal laws governing energy and the environment. Governing bodies from the State of California to the nation of Denmark rightly look to biomass as a sound, proven solution for generating clean energy while keeping forests healthy, and an essential part of any renewable energy policy. 

This report was not peer-reviewed, nor was it joined or supported by any credible national environmental organization. Indeed, national environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have endorsed the use of biomass from wood waste by facilities mentioned in the report like Plainfield Renewable Energy. In a letter to the facility, NRDC wrote: “NRDC has reviewed the plans for Plainfield Renewable Energy project and found that the categories of wood you propose to use meet our criteria for environmentally acceptable wood. In particular the standard for cleaned wood from construction and demolition debris appears to exclude all of the materials of concern to NRDC."

Placer County Air Pollution Control District, home to Cabin Creek Biomass Facility featured in the report, was awarded the 2010 Clean Air Excellence Award by the Environmental Protection Agency for its public-private solution for keeping forests healthy while generating clean energy using biomass. 

It is unfortunately very easy to misrepresent numbers as true science. PFPI believes it is helping the environment – but the end result of studies like this is that, if they are taken as fact, more fossil fuels will be used for power. 

We continue to review the report and collect its inaccuracies. For an initial review, we took a close look at the report’s evaluation of two recently permitted, very different type projects—one in California and the other in Connecticut. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Biomass Expert Bill Carlson Breaks Down PFPI Report

The following guest blog is from Bill Carlson, principal of Carlson Small Power Consultants of Redding, CA. Over the last decade, Carlson has consulted in the development of 12 small biomass cogeneration facilities. Over a forty year career in energy, he has operated plants combusting gas, coal, trash, biomass and coal waste. 

Anti-Biomass Group Paints Misleading Portrait of Beneficial Energy Source

An anti-biomass energy group issued a screed this week that is, at most, a compilation of scare tactics, misstatements and half-truths so biased in its interpretation of data that it is difficult to figure out just where to start first in pointing out the obvious inadequacies of its findings.

The document from the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PPI), an outgrowth of the Environmental Working Group, speciously contends that biomass electricity generation is more polluting and worse for the climate than coal.

It is not the first attack on biomass generated by those who would insist on a “business-as-usual” approach to meeting our nation’s energy needs, and it won’t be the last. But with EPA having under consideration proposals to regulate biomass-derived electricity under the Clean Air Act, it’s important to address and correct the impressions left by erroneous, if not baseless, assertions.

In assessing the report overall, I have to say that looking at only the plant stack and concluding that it is bad is akin to looking at the needle on a smallpox shot and concluding that sharp thing will hurt the patient. Biomass needs to be looked at in totality, what it does for forestry, agriculture and waste management, not just what comes out the stack.

Biomass Makes Sense.

This blog was created to address misperceptions about the biomass industry. 

We use forest residuals and wood byproducts to create clean, sustainable power. We serve a valuable role in keeping forests healthy and reducing the risk of catastrophic forest fires. We provide a use for materials that would otherwise be discarded in landfills or be open burned. We replace the use of fossil fuels for power generation with a fuel source that is biogenic - in other words, our fuel source is already part of the natural forest carbon cycle and does not introduce new carbon into the atmosphere. 

Biomass Makes Sense. Don't take our word for it - the science speaks for itself. And our industry should be supported - by legislators, by recipients of biomass power, and especially by environmentalists. 

This blog contains contributions from Biomass Power Association and other industry supporters.