– by John Darling, February 22, 2016, Ashland Daily Tidings
Photo: Ashland Daily Tidings
Environmentalists are celebrating Southern Oregon University’s decision not to install biomass burners to heat the campus, but rather to go with natural gas, which it presently uses, for about a third of the cost of biomass and virtually none of the carbon and particulate pollution.
After 15 months of deliberation, the Finance Committee of SOU’s Board of Trustees voted Thursday to ask the 2017 Legislature for $2.5 million for natural gas boilers to replace the aging gas boilers that were installed in the 1970s, says Ryan Brown, SOU spokesman. The vote was unanimous.
The choice ends consideration of biomass-fed boilers, which would been built near the SOU stadium and would have meant an endless stream of wood slash trucked in from surrounding forests — an idea that drew much local protest. The gas option has no environmental impact, he adds, as it just replaces a similar system.
“SOU is doing a great job of bringing the issue of sustainability and renewable energy to the community,” says Dominick DellaSalla, chief scientist of Geos Institute in Ashland. “That needs to happen if we’re going to deal with climate change … It’s a smart move for the university and I applaud them for rejecting the proposal to make the region worse for climate and pollution.” He testified before trustees recently.
Community activist John Fisher-Smith, who campaigned against biomass, said, “I’m excited and thrilled to hear the trustees made this decision. Biomass would have added to the problem of particulate pollution.” He adds it’s a “misunderstanding” put out by the U.S. Forest Service that biomass burning is carbon neutral.