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April 17, 2014 Issue

Report calls biomass the new coal
Ag Day
Early voting for May ballot opens

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Report calls biomass the new coal

By Parish Howard

A new report released this month references the North Star Jefferson biomass power plant currently under construction near Wadley.

The study, “Trees, Trash and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become The New Coal,” was recently delivered to the EPA by the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI).


According to Mary Booth, Director of PFPI and author of the report, it was written from an analysis of 88 recent state and federal permits for biomass power plants in 25 states.

“The biomass power industry portrays their facilities as clean,” Booth said. “But we found that even the newest biomass plants are allowed to pollute more than modern coal- and gas-fired plants and that pollution from bioenergy is increasingly unregulated.”

The report argues that biomass plants are “markedly inefficient” and that “per megawatt-hour, a biomass power plant employing best available control technology emits more nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and carbon monoxide than a modern coal plant of the same size.”

The report details the proposed emissions from all of these plants and says it has found that “biomass power plants are disproportionately polluting not just because of their low efficiency (in converting heat to electrical output) and high emissions inherent in burning wood for energy, but also because the bioenergy industry exploits and actually depends on important loopholes om the Clean Air Act and its enforcement, loopholes that make bioenergy far more polluting than it would be if it were regulated like fossil fuels.”

It was in late 2011 that developers announced plans to build a 25 Megawatt woody biomass power plant near Wadley that would used 80 percent untreated wood scraps (from low market or unmarketable wood like tree tops and limbs) and up to 20 percent tire-derived fuel (TDF) to produce electricity that would be sold on contract to Georgia Power.

Many of the recent report’s arguments were heard by Jefferson County citizens at the public hearings held in March of 2012 when the developers applied for their air quality permit.

One of the primary arguments is that biomass plants should be labeled major sources of pollution and therefore be held to stricter pollution controls.

The report addresses biomass power’s high CO2 emissions and argues that while these emissions “can theoretically be offset over time by forest regrowth and other means, such offsets typically take several decades to fully compensate for the CO2 emitted during plant operation.”

The study also addresses more hazardous air pollutants, including heavy metals and dioxins.

Not only does the report point out the loopholes it sees built into the permitting system, but it also addresses “fixes” for these loopholes.

The full report is available online at http://www.pfpi.net/trees-trash-and-toxics-how-biomass-energy-has-become-the-new-coal

Despite these arguments, developers of the Wadley plant have consistently argued that they are going beyond what is required to reduce emissions.

During that first 2012 hearing, Eric Cornwell, program manager for EPD’s Air Protection Branch Stationary Source Permitting Program, told area residents that because the emissions are all below EPA emission limits, Georgia EPD cannot require the plant to use Best Available Control Technology, but added that in some cases, the technology the plant is planning to use could be considered BACT for certain emissions.

“A lot of the technolgy they are using is what we would recommend as BACT,” Cornwell said.

In June of 2012 the Wadley plant’s air permit was approved. Cornwell said at that time that despite meeting all of the EPD’s requirements, North Star opted to increase their restrictions in a couple of areas in an effort to further quell some of the public’s concerns regarding the plant’s emissions.

“The facility has proposed to further clarify the lists of fuels that may be burned in the boiler,” Cornwell said.

That update changed the permit, not authorizing the facility to fire any construction and demolition debris and pallets in the boiler. North Star also proposed a more rigorous Hydrogen fluoride testing regimen and installing a continuous emissions rate monitoring system for HCl emissions that was not required in the original permit.

In the fall of 2012, a settlement was reached between North Star Jefferson and several local entities, including the Ogeechee River Keeper, who had appealed the plant’s air quality permit.

After negotiations, the settlement included more than $1 million in agreed upon additional costs for the plant’s developers, including installation of an ambient air monitoring system at nearby Carver Elementary, additional control technology that will further reduce the plant’s emissions by half and an agreement to pay the Ogeechee Riverkeeper $250,000 over the course of five years.

In February of 2014 residents learned that the U.S. Endowment For Forestry and Communities, a non-profit that has been involved with financing the project since the announcement that it was looking at the Wadley site, has taken a more active role in developing the plant.

Developers say the detailed engineering is currently being done and key pieces of the plant, including the turbine, have already been purchased.

Construction is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2015 with the plant going into operation by December of that year.

To see the developer’s data on the endowment and the plant see http://usendowment.org//images/NSJ_Project_Overview.pdf

Ag Day

Judson Outlaw (at right) tries out a tractor on display at the Jefferson County Extension Service’s second annual Ag Day Saturday. In addition to livestock and farm equipment displays, visitors explored a number of booths highlighting local agricultural products.


Early voting for May ballot opens

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Several changes made because of recent redistricting has at least one official wondering if Jefferson County voters might be uncertain about who is running.

Jefferson County Election Superintendent Susan Gray said that during a recent election several voters thought they could vote for John Barrow, not realizing the county is no longer in the district he serves. Other voters thought they could vote on the wrong days.


“I have maps in the office that show the districts,” Gray said, adding that she receives several calls daily from people who still want to vote for John Barrow. Barrow represents Congressional District 12, which previously included Jefferson County but no longer does.

Gray said after the recent redistricting, the county is now in Congressional District 10, State Senate District 23 and State House Districts 127 and 128.

State House District 127 comprises the precincts in Matthews, Wrens, Stapleton, Stapleton Crossroads, Avera and Louisville.

State House District 128 includes the precincts of Bartow and Wadley.

Gray wanted to remind residents of the voter registration deadline, Monday, April 21, at 5 p.m. Voters who register after that date will not be eligible to vote in the May 20 election.

This deadline is the same for Glascock County voters.

The first day of advanced or early voting is Monday, April 28. Jefferson County voters will vote at the Jefferson County Board of Elections Office located at 415 Green St., Louisville.

Glascock County voters will vote at the Board of Registrars Office located at 676 West Main St., Gibson.

Office hours to vote during this time are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Neither office will close for lunch during this time.

Saturday voting will be at the same locations on May 10 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The offices will not close for lunch on this day.

Advanced/early voting closes Friday, May 16, at 5 p.m.

There will be no voting on Monday, May 19, the day before the election.

On Election Day, Tuesday, May 20, polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Sample ballots for either county may be picked up at the elections office in Jefferson County and at the board of registrar’s office in Glascock County. You can also visit the Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.ga.gov and click the elections link, then the voter tab and then “My Voter Page.”

For more information about voting in Jefferson County, contact the Board of Elections Office at 478-625-8357.

For more information about voting in Glascock County, contact the Board of Registrars at 706-598-3241.

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Last modified: April 16, 2014