Category Archives: environmental justice

[OPINION] Biomass Energy Facilities Can Worsen Air Pollution

[Read the opposing view to this opinion piece, “Biomass Facilities Play Important Role in Improving Air Quality,” by Bruce Springsteen, Placer County Air Pollution Control District]

– by Jana Ganion, Energy Director, Blue Lake Rancheria

“Particulate matter pollution” — air-borne particles (visible and invisible) that seep into our lungs and environment — is now a proven, dire health hazard, and an environmental harm accelerant.

We can compare the crescendo of information around the health hazards of particulate matter air pollution to the public’s awakening to — and acceptance of — the health hazards of cigarettes. In the case of tobacco, we proceeded from physicians recommending smoking, to understanding that it absolutely causes cancer.

The certainty regarding the dangers of particulate matter air pollution has reached the same point: there is no doubt it damages health — from worsening asthma, to heart and lung disease, to shortened lifespans, and death.

Just type “particulate matter health” in your favorite internet search engine and glance at recommendations from non-partisan, trusted agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, the World Health Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency , State of New York, and many others.

In an interesting recent article from the Wall Street Journal, “Does Poor Air Quality Hurt Stock-Market Returns?”, economist researchers from both Columbia University and University of Ottawa found that on bad-air days in New York City, when 2.5 micron particulate matter (PM2.5, invisible particles most dangerous to human health) were at high levels, stock market prices went down by ~12%. It seems that when people can’t breathe well, they get “risk averse.”

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[OPINION] Biomass Facilities Play Important Role in Improving Air Quality

[Read the opposing view to this opinion piece, “Biomass Energy Facilities Can Worsen Air Pollution,” by Jana Ganion, Blue Lake Rancheria]

– by Bruce Springsteen, Compliance and Enforcement Manager, Placer County Air Pollution Control District

California biomass power plants provide an alternative to the open pile burning of woody forest and agricultural wastes as a means of disposal. By utilizing this significant renewable resource for clean and efficient power generation, biomass power plants avoid the significant air pollution from open pile burning and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Presently California’s 22 biomass power plants, with individual capacity ranging from 10-50 MW, produce 530 MW of renewable and reliable baseload (24/7) electricity. Much of the biomass fuel for these plants is woody waste that is the byproduct of the sustainable management of California’s highly productive: (1) fruit and nut orchards in the Central Valley, and (2) forested lands through the foothills and mountains.

Fruit and nut orchard wastes include annual tree prunings and periodic removal of over-mature trees. Forest wastes – small diameter tree stems, tops, limbs, branches, and brush – are the product of fuel hazard reduction, forest health and productivity improvements, and traditional commercial harvest. Of concern is the pending increase in forest waste supply as land managers accelerate the scale and pace of fuels treatments to reduce the risk of high severity wildfire and to return forests to fire-resilient conditions in response to tree mortality (Stevens 2016) and the overly dense fuel condition resulting from a century of successful wildfire suppression (North et al. 2015, Dombeck et al. 2004).

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[NEWS] Kentucky Biodiesel Leak Suffocates Thousands of Fish

– by Trey Crumbie, December 1, 2016, Lexington Herald Leader

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Little Eagle Creek (Trey Crumbie)

Thousands of fish have been killed by 3,000 gallons of biodiesel that leaked into a river from a truck stop in Kentucky, US.

The diesel leaked into Little Eagle Creek near Sadieville in early to mid-November from a branch of the national Love’s Travel Stop chain of truck stops.

Jack Donovan, director of the Georgetown/Scott County Emergency Management Agency, told Lexington Herald Leader that the agency receive a notification of the leak on 18 November, but some locals said they had noticed the leak up to two week prior.

The cleanup of the leak, the exactly source of which has not bee determined, is in progress and will take a “long time”.

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[NEWS] Dead Trees Mean New Life for Fresno, California Biomass Facility

– by Marc Benjamin, November 28, 2016, Fresno Bee

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Photo: John Walker / Fresno Bee

Dead trees will continue being turned into electricity near Fresno for another five years after a biomass plant in Malaga got a contract to supply Southern California Edison.

The contract ends concerns that the facility, which employs 25 workers and has a $3.5 million annual payroll, could close soon. The plant’s contract was extended twice this year because of dead trees cut down in the Sierra.

The 24-megawatt plant was supposed to close Dec. 31 without a new contract. Utilities no longer were going to pay for electricity generation from biomass plants because the fixed price that supported the plants was expiring.

Biomass plants in Delano, Mendota, Dinuba, Terra Bella and Firebaugh have closed in recent years because of expired power purchasing agreements.

READ MORE at Fresno Bee

[NEWS] California Biomass Facility Says Tribe Trying to Derail Clean Air Act Lawsuit

– by Christine Powell, November 9, 2016, Law 360

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Blue Lake Power (Shaun Walker)

Blue Lake Power LLC told a federal court on Tuesday that the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe was attempting to derail and complicate a lawsuit by the federal government and an air quality district that accuses the company of violating the Clean Air Act at a California biomass-fired electricity plant.

The tribe has filed an intervenor complaint in the dispute, which was brought by the federal government and the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District against BLP in February, seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties for alleged CAA violations at the plant.

But BLP argued that the tribe disregarded the court’s order allowing it to intervene in the case — an order that limited the claims the tribe could bring to those that paralleled the ones asserted by the agencies — by including in its intervenor complaint a request for a temporary restraining order.

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