The Partnership for Policy Integrity points to 2010 permit for biomass power that was never built at the Maine paper mill.
By Rachel Ohm email@example.com
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.
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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.
Booth, referencing emission rates for nitrogen oxide in the 2010 permit, said Madison Paper is “emitting three times the nitrogen oxide they would be if they were using good combustion control.
“The problem is they can really gas out the neighborhood,” Booth said. “The total tons they emit may not be as much as a larger plant, but the intensity per hour is really high. I definitely think they should have been required to use emissions controls. It is a pretty filthy little plant.”
Russ Drechsel, president of Madison Paper Industries, said the the mill had a different owner when the boiler was being considered. The mill, which never installed such a boiler, was sold in 2011 to UPM-Kymmene Corp., the world’s largest magazine paper producer.
“We did at one point three or four years ago consider a biomass facility but that was terminated a long time ago. I don’t even know what they’re talking about,” said Drechsel, who said he was surprised to learn that the company was being cited in the report.
Booth defended the report and the connection to Madison Paper, saying there is a link even though the study makes no explicit mention of Madison Paper Industries. What matters is the “terrible permit” that was approved, Booth said. In a press release to the Morning Sentinel about the study, a group spokesman said “the Madison plant was part of our study.”
Drechsel said the mill was not going to finance the biomass project and was not part of the permitting process. Madison Paper operates on oil and natural gas and is in the process of converting to 100 percent natural gas, which officials expect to be in place as soon as next week.
The partnership, which is based in Massachusetts, is a nonprofit research organization that says it aims to inform the public and policy makers on environmental issues, with a focus on biomass energy. The group says the purpose of the study is to show how lack of government regulation has contributed to pollution by biomass boilers, and in doing so links the permitted plants to an increase in biomass pollution.