Tag Archives: colorado

[EXCLUSIVE] Forest Service Studies Soil Impacts of Bioenergy Logging

– by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

A recent study from the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Rocky Mountain Research Station investigates the potential impacts on forest productivity from logging for biomass energy. While the study focuses primarily on the Northern Rockies region—where only a handful of small combined heat and power and biomass heating facilities operate—many of the findings may be applied to western forests.

The study, Impact of Biomass Harvesting on Forest Soil Productivity in the Northern Rocky Mountains, by Woongsoon Jang and Christopher Keyes from the University of Montana, and Deborah Page-Dumroese with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho, assesses one of the main environmental concerns surrounding an expansion of bioenergy, the impact on forest soil productivity.

USFS defines forest productivity as the “integration of all environmental factors encompassing soil productivity, climate, topography, geology, vegetation, and the history of natural disturbances and anthropogenic interventions.” Ultimately, the question is whether logging for bioenergy may impair future forest growth.

Logging for bioenergy involves removing more organic matter from the forest than conventional logging for lumber alone. The practice of whole-tree logging extracts not just merchantable tree trunks for lumber, but also treetops, branches, and other logging byproducts, and has a “substantial impact on live vegetation,” according to study authors.

Though whole tree logging is not typically employed in the western U.S. forests, the authors predict that forests will “likely be managed more intensively in the future,” in part for biomass energy.

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[NEWS] Bioenergy Opportunities in Colorado from Beetle-Killed Trees

– by Joseph Pomerening, October 24, 2016, Renewable Energy World

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Photo: Renewable Energy World

When you think of Colorado, images of snow-capped mountains and lush evergreen forests may come to your mind. But Colorado’s forests have been under attack. It began more than two decades ago when severe drought led to an infestation of mountain pine beetles, spruce beetles, and other pests. The beetle infestation, over time, killed millions of acres of lodgepole pine trees and other tree species. There is now an abundance of dead trees standing on the mountainsides of central and western Colorado.

Decomposition of dead trees occurs naturally and is healthy for a forest ecosystem. However, too many dead trees makes the region prone to forest fires that are costly and dangerous to contain. Forest fires can damage property and communities, harm wildlife, and threaten water supplies.

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[NEWS] Gypsum, CO Uses Eminent Domain for Riverfront Used by Biomass Facility

– by Jason Blevins, October 6, 2016, Denver Post

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Eagle Valley Clean Energy (Bill Heicher)

The Town of Gypsum is using its power of eminent domain to force the operator Colorado’s first biomass electric plant to sell 69 acres along the Eagle River that the town wants for open space, recreation and access for a future wastewater treatment plant.

The Gypsum Town Council in July approved an ordinance to acquire or condemn the property to compel Eagle Valley Clean Energy to negotiate the sale of the property. The town offered $506,000 and upped its offer to $800,000, but the company says the land is worth twice that.

“The courts provide a process for both sides to be heard for what they think the value of the ground is in an open market transaction,” said attorney Don Ostrander, an eminent domain specialist hired by the town to negotiate with the company.

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[NEWS] Town of Gypsum, CO and Biomass Officials Remain at Loggerheads

– by Pam Boyd, October 1, 2016, Vail Daily

eagle_valley_captionThe town of Gypsum and the owners/operators of the Eagle Valley Clean Energy biomass plant continue to be at loggerheads, with their disagreements covering everything from water rights at the biomass plant property to whether or not substantive attempts to negotiate a property purchase have even occurred.

The issues stem from a July Gypsum Town Council approval of an ordinance to “acquire or condemn” property belonging to Clearwater Ventures LLC, the entity that owns the land where the Eagle Valley Clean Energy biomass plant is located. Town officials have stated it is their intention is to launch a negotiation process that will determine a fair market price for 69 acres located along the Eagle River. Once that price is determined, the town will either proceed with a purchase or walk away from a deal, Gypsum officials said.

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Beetle-Killed Forests Rich in Diversity

– by Jonathan Romeo, March 3, 2016, Durango Herald

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Photo: Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

The drive over Wolf Creek Pass, scarred by the spruce beetle outbreak, can elicit strong emotions in the nature lover. Several logging sales may be on the way, but new research suggests ravaged trees can create an ecologically vital habitat worth saving.

Since 1996, nearly 588,000 acres in the Rio Grande National Forest and 120,000 acres in the San Juan National Forest have fallen prey to the spruce beetle scourge. In its wake, the outbreak has left many questions about how to best approach reforestation.

In February, Forest Service officials announced plans for a small salvage sale of about 100 acres of dead spruce near Wolf Creek Pass, which could expand to another 800 acres off of Wolf Creek and Falls Creek roads.

The federal agency will also consider a 900-acre sale in the Dolores Ranger District, in the Taylor and Stoner Mesa areas, and evaluate the best sites for salvage sales on forest land north of U.S. Highway 160 between the Piedra River and Vallecito Lake.

The Forest Service has long maintained such timber sales benefit the health of the ecosystem as it transitions from an old-growth to new-growth forest, but research from the University of Montana, as well as several conservation groups, challenges that idea.

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Biomass Energy Growing Pains

– by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

Eagle_Valley_captionSeveral biomass power facilities have come online over the last few years in Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, and Hawaii, but not without difficulties, including fires, inefficient equipment, lawsuits, and competing with the low price of natural gas.

Gypsum, Colorado

Eagle Valley Clean Energy, an 11.5-megawatt biomass power facility in Gypsum, Colorado started operating in December 2013, only to have its conveyor belt catch fire in December 2014. Spokespersons said the facility would be back online shortly, yet as of October, it’s still offline. There have been no further media reports investigating why the facility still isn’t operating, and multiple calls and emails to the facility from The Biomass Monitor were not returned.

Another thorn in Eagle Valley’s claw is a lawsuit filed against the company in U.S. District Court in June 2015 by Wellons, Inc., an Oregon-based corporation that designed and built the biomass facility.

Wellons is suing Eagle Valley Clean Energy for $11,799,864 for breach of contract, accusing the company of “fraudulent transfers” and “civil conspiracy,” involving the transferring of $18.5 million of federal subsidies to “insider” parties in an alleged effort to hide the money. The money was issued to the facility from the federal government under Section of 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the Stimulus, involving payments to reimburse companies building renewable energy facilities.

Wellons claims that, on top of the nearly twelve million dollars Eagle Valley must pay them, they are owed past due interest of $1,185,433.56, with debt accruing at $3254.90 per day.

Another bump in the road for Eagle Valley involves the Chapter 11 bankcruptcy of the logging contractor that provides them the trees to fuel the facility, West Range Reclamation. West Range has provided nearly all of the wood to the facility since it opened, mostly from beetle-killed lodgepole pine from the White River National Forest.

Nacogdoches, Texas

Southern Power’s Nacogdoches Generating Facility, a 100-megawatt biomass power facility in Nacogdoches, Texas, opened in 2012 only to sit idle much of the time due to an inability to compete with the low price of natural gas, according to Reuters.

Rothschild, Wisconsin

In November 2013, WE Energies and Domtar Corp’s 50-megawatt biomass power facility opened in Rothschild, Wisconsin. However, it was offline from December 2014 through May 2015 for repairs, and was operational only 16% of the time during its first full year, in part due to an inability to compete with the low price of natural gas, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Gainesville, Florida

The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC), a 100-megawatt biomass power facility, came online in Gainesville, Florida in 2013, and soon ran into controversy with noise complaints from neighbors.

In October 2014, the Gainesville City Commission approved an audit to look into financial transactions between Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) and GREC, which increased costs for the utility and its customers.

In April 2015, Wood Resource Recovery, one of the main fuel suppliers for GREC, sued the facility for breach of contract for $5 million in damages. Part of the complaint has to do with GREC’s refusal to take yard waste and materials from agriculturally zoned properties.

In August, the facility shut down temporarily, and when it became operational again, Gainesville Regional Utilities decided not to bring it back online, with no “projected return to service at this current time,” according to Margaret Crawford, GRU Communications Director. Instead, GRU is relying on power that is “more economic than GREC’s facility.”

In September, the city audit report uncovered that Gainesville Regional Utilities was paying $56,826 more per month than it was supposed to, totaling $900,000 in over-payments.

Koloa, Hawaii

Green Energy Team’s 7.5-megawatt biomass power facility in Koloa, Hawaii, was scheduled to start up in April 2015, but the official opening has been pushed back to November because the efficiency level from burning wood chips was lower than it should be, according to The Garden Island. The turbine was dismantled and reassembled, and is currently undergoing more testing.

Colorado State Senator Pushes for Biomass Logging

Unfortunately this article doesn’t explain the difference between creating defensible space 100 feet around a home–proven to protect homes from wildfire–and logging backcountry forests. 

– by Peter Marcus, February 20, 2016, Durango Herald

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Photo: Durango Herald

Durango Republican Ellen Roberts is burning with desire to curb wildfires.

The state senator has outlined a list of priorities for the Legislature this year, including securing grants for risk reduction and finding practical uses for tinder.

“It’s a statewide expense when you have catastrophic wildfires,” Roberts said. “Whether it’s our air fleet, whether it’s the recovery of the reservoirs that get filled in by the silt and the erosion that occurs after a fire, we all pay the costs statewide of the fires.”

The most pressing issue for Roberts is grant funding for mitigation efforts.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year would slash funding for the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program.

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