* EPA Delivers Biomass Decision with Potentially Devastating Results

Been a while since our last post. Never fear, we’re back! Here’s an update and a call to action from The Dogwood Alliance:

EPA Delivers Biomass Decision with Potentially Devastating Results

July 26th, 2011 By Scot Quaranda

Recently, the US Environmental Protection Agency decided not to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from biomass energy plants for the next three years while the agency studies the issue.  At a time when science suggests that burning wood for energy could actually result in accelerated (rather than reduced) carbon emissions, this decision sets us on the wrong path to a clean energy future. In response to this decision by the EPA, Dogwood Alliance quickly issued a statement opposing large-scale, wood-based bioenergy and called on the EPA to stop the further expansion of large-scale biomass projects while the agency studies the environmental impacts.

With no CO2 regulation, insufficient smoke stack regulations and no regulation of forest management practices, the government has just opened the floodgates on yet another environmentally destructive, unregulated and unaccountable industry — all in the name of clean, renewable energy.  While there is an undeniable need to reduce carbon emissions and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, burning forests is not the answer. We should look to truly “clean” alternatives like solar and wind power, and leave our forests intact to help combat climate change.

Send a Letter to the EPA

Send a letter to the EPA telling them not to stand by while energy companies destroy our forests for fuel.  Rather than giving this industry a free pass to pollute the air and destroy our forests, ask the agency to institute a three-year moratorium on new large-scale biomass projects while they assess the impacts to climate, human health and forests.


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Plan to Attend ReVenture Public Hearing Tonight, June 2, 7:00 PM


There will be a public hearing June 2nd at 7:00 PM for citizen comments regarding the ReVenture separation and fuel generation plant proposed for Amble Drive. The separation plan will determine the materials that will be burned in the gasification incinerator and the amount and types of pollutants emitted at the Clariant site. If you have questions and/or want to have your concerns heard, plan to attend this meeting! Bring a neighbor or friend and carpool.

Meeting Information:
June 2, 7:00 PM
Mecklenburg Recycling Center
1007 Amble Drive
Charlotte, NC 28206

Map to meeting:

Materials to review for meeting at
Notice of Public Meetings and Comment Period on ReVenture

Posted in Charlotte, Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture, Sierra Club | Leave a comment

* ‘Green’ biomass isn’t always so clean

Take the time to read this to learn about what is happening nationally and why we need to take action locally and in North Carolina.

‘Green’ biomass isn’t always so clean

Toxic plumes and dust spew from an unlikely source: renewable energy plants

By Ronnie Greene, April 26, 2011

Just 12 miles apart in the belly of California, a pair of 12.5 megawatt power plants fouled the air with a toxic brew of pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and particulate matter. They released thick plumes and visible dust. They failed to install proper monitoring equipment, and failed to file reports on their emissions.

Another instance of coal plants polluting the environment?

Not quite. These are biomass power plants, part of the so-called green wave of the future.

Pitched as a smarter, environmentally-friendly way to produce power, the electricity generating stations are spreading nationwide, spurred by hundreds of millions in stimulus dollars and big muscle support from members of Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Generating electricity by burning trees, construction debris, poultry litter and agricultural mass has become a key element in a larger push to develop sources of alternative energy, and popular because it’s been around for decades and is reliable.

Yet green energy is not always so green.

Worries about the potential health effects have sent ripples through communities where new plants are being built. The industry and its allies in Washington, meanwhile, have managed to delay for three years finalizing a study into the legitimacy of claims that biomass pollution fouls the air and harms health , perhaps even contributing to asthma and heart disease.

Regulators this year slapped the two San Joaquin Valley plants, owned by Massachusetts’ Global Ampersand LLC, with $835,000 in penalties [4] for sweeping alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and local regulations. The company agreed to pay the fines and clean up its act without admitting to the violations.

“Today’s enforcement actions are a victory for human health,” Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said as the fines were announced Feb. 15. “San Joaquin Valley communities can now breathe easier as a result of the significant pollution controls won in these settlements.”

The EPA deems biomass a renewable energy source that benefits the environment and is carbon-neutral. The myriad products biomass plants burn — agricultural wastes, sewage sludge, manure — “are organic wastes that will continue to be produced by society,” EPA literature says.

Biomass plants emit nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, though in lower quantities than at coal plants, the EPA said, and in varying amounts depending upon the type of biomass burned and generator used.

“Although the burning of biomass also produces carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, it is considered to be part of the natural carbon cycle of the earth,” says [5]the EPA’s clean energy fact sheet. “The plants take up carbon dioxide from the air while they are growing and then return it to the air when they are burned, thereby causing no net increase.”

Wave of U.S. construction

The Biomass Power Association — whose slogan is “natural energy, naturally” — stresses environmental and consumer benefits that include “improving forest health, protecting air quality, and offering the most dependable renewable energy source.”

Such assertions, coupled with big pots of federal money made available to spur the industry’s expansion, have fueled a wave of construction from Georgia to Massachusetts to Washington state — along with a strong reaction from citizens.

Many communities, already wary of earlier industrial growth that fouled their water and air, are pushing back, even as Washington opts to aggressively promote the industry. The growing controversy underscores challenges facing renewable technology that is being pushed by the Obama administration.

“I’ve been an environmental activist over 30 years and I’ve never seen a grassroots movement backlash against anything like this,” said Margaret Sheehan, an attorney with the Biomass Accountability Project, which is fighting plants nationwide.

The pitched battles focus on an industry that counts some 100 plants in 20 states, with critics saying as many as 100 more are on the drawing board. Typically located in rural areas, biomass plants provide some 2 percent of the nation’s energy, the Department of Energy estimates — a share that could potentially reach 15 percent by 2020.

There’s big money behind the science.

The biomass industry association launched a $250,000 marketing blitz in 2009, in part, to push Congress to continue handing tax incentives to plants looking to rise or expand. And members of Congress brought political muscle to bear, pushing the EPA to support the industry last year as EPA signaled a move to reclassify biomass emissions and treat them the same as fossil fuels.

“Recycling wood waste from our national forests to produce local, clean energy and create rural jobs is a no-brainer,” Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, said last June [6] as 63 members of Congress from both parties, pressed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “But these efforts have been undermined by pressure from misguided environmental groups on EPA to classify renewable biomass as a pollutant on par with dirty coal.”

Democratic Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Jeff Merkley of Oregon were among others to press Jackson.

“In Oregon and Montana, the use of biomass products in energy applications will create jobs and stimulate economic development,” the senators wrote [7] on Jan. 4, 2011. “As you know, we are very concerned that the Agency’s treatment of biomass in the tailoring rule may inadvertently stymie growth in the biomass industry, putting U.S. jobs at risk in the coming months and preventing greenhouse gas emissions reductions that would otherwise be achieved.”

Opponents have managed to halt several proposed plants — including one in Tallahassee whose financial arrangement they said would benefit political insiders. (A grand jury review found no wrongdoing.) Yet the larger battle has been won by industry, which argues that troubles involving plants such as those in Tallahassee and California’s San Joaquin Valley are not emblematic of the industry’s record as a whole.

Industry gains delayed study of health impact

The biggest victory for the biomass business came Jan. 12, when the EPA announced [8] it would put off, for three years, a decision on whether biomass greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

In the meantime, the EPA said, local governments should conclude that “the use of biomass as fuel is the best available control technology for” greenhouse gas. That decision followed the political outcry from some in Congress.

“We think EPA is clearly listening and being sensitive to the science of biomass,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. “They recognized there are benefits associated with that kind of fuel.”

That deferral comes as health organizations have raised red flags. The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians said the “burning of poultry litter and wood wastes creates emissions of particulate matter that research has shown increase the risk of premature death, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease.”

“Burning biomass could lead to significant increases in emissions,” the American Lung Association wrote Congress in 2009, “and have severe impacts on the health of children, older adults, and people with lung diseases.” In Western Massachusetts the same year, the Hampden District Medical Society spoke out against a wave of proposed plants, noting that the ALA had rated air quality an F. “To allow any extra amount of pollution into our already tenuous air would be similar to throwing gasoline on a fire,” wrote Medical Society President Dr. James K. C. Wang.

The EPA will explore the varying viewpoints on an issue so divisive the agency received 7,000 comments in a call for public input, Administrator Jackson announced.

“The agency intends to use this time to seek further independent scientific analysis of this complex issue” involving carbon dioxide emissions, the EPA said. “Seeking advice of federal partners, states, a diverse group of expert scientists including industry and other stakeholders, and an independent scientific panel, will help to determine how these emissions should be treated under the EPA’s air permitting program.”

As she announced the 3-year deferral, Jackson wrote back to members of Congress who had just challenged her agency, reminding each official of “my prior commitment to exercise whatever discretion the Clean Air Act affords to avoid discouraging the use of renewable, domestically-produced fuel in power plants and factories.”

Substantial subsidies trigger a ‘gold rush’

The industry won another crucial fight last year, part of a successful lobbying campaign for Congress to extend construction tax credits that can cover up to 30 percent of a project’s cost. The industry’s $250,000 public relations campaign stressed job creation, greenhouse gas reduction — and continuation of the so-called 1603 tax credit program, where tax credits are converted into dollars companies can pour into construction.

“Just like every other renewable energy … biomass plants will not get built without government subsidies, and that includes tax incentives,” said Cleaves, who heads the pro-industry group. He said the ultimate success depends on availability of fuel, and the long-term power agreement.

In December, the Biomass Power Association joined the American Wind Energy Association, Solar Energy Industries Association and others in lobbying Congress to continue the program. Without that financial lifeline, “we will experience a significant slowdown in the renewable energy industries, resulting in the loss of American jobs.” The credit could help bring 20,000 new jobs in the wind industry, 25,000 in solar and thousands in the biomass and hydropower sectors in 2011, they said.

Biomass plants have collected $116 million in federal subsidies to help expand current facilities or build new ones, according to a spreadsheet of allocations provided by the Biomass Power Association. It said two grants were for new plants, and 27 for existing operations, and that biomass comprises a small portion of all 1603 energy awards.

Yet that figure only reflects grants awarded to date, not projects in the works, and the actual federal payout will rise significantly. One Vermont biomass project alone seeks to pocket $52 million in government aid; failing to land that recovery money, a company attorney wrote, “will significantly complicate the project’s financing.”

“This whole thing has become a sham and at this point is turning into an incredible fraud because we’re going to ask taxpayers to spend a huge amount of money to produce dirty energy which is a health problem,” said Dr. William Sammons, a physician who is part of the Biomass Accountability Project and has traveled the country fighting proposed plants.

Grassroots opponents say more than 100 biomass plants are now on the drawing table across the country, most looking to cash in on the 1603 program. The industry said it did not have a firm figure, but said many more are proposed than will actually be built; the EPA did not respond to requests to provide hard figures on project proposals.

“It’s a huge gold rush,” said Mary Booth, co-founder of the Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance. “The 30 percent reimbursement of construction costs is massive.”

Booth co-wrote a report [9] titled Clearcut Disaster: Carbon Loophole Threatens U.S. Forests , which argues the plants are not carbon neutral. “This Enron-style accounting makes a glaringly false assumption, that burning trees and other biomass fuels produces zero net carbon emissions,” the report concluded.

Booth called the EPA’s three-year study period “a total industry giveaway,” and added: “They’ve got plenty of science right now to do what they need to do.”

The EPA said it needs that time to effectively come to conclusions.

Duke’s joint venture faces backlash

The industry sees the issues through a different lens than its critics. “Where some see sticks and debris, we see a sustainable energy solution,” says Adage LLC, a joint venture of Duke Energy and Areva, on its website [10]. Duke Energy is one of the country’s largest electric power companies, and Areva, with 50,000 employees, describes itself as a “global nuclear industry leader … expanding considerably in renewable energies.”

In Florida and Washington State, Adage has been embraced by politicians and Chambers of Commerce — but has sometimes faced backlash from residents. Two of its three projects have been shelved, and a third is on hold.

Last year, the company withdrew a 50-megawatt facility pitched for Gadsden County, Florida, after concern the plant

would be less than a mile from an elementary school in the mostly black county. “It is unconscionable that incinerators are allowed to be built in close proximity to where we sleep, go to school, church, play and seek medical care,” James E. Maloy Jr., president of the Concerned Citizens of Gadsden County, wrote Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and others.

Adage secured permits in nearby Hamilton County for a 55-megawatt plant to convert clean woody biomass into electricity. Adage initially wanted to build both Florida projects, spokesman Tom DePonty said, but concluded just one was viable and that community criticism was not why it pulled back in Gadsden. Still, the Hamilton County project is on hold until a power contract is signed.

In Washington State, citizens launched a recall petition against two political supporters of a planned 58-megawatt Mason County project, saying the Adage plant would trigger the release of greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals. “This is a very small group led by certified kooks,” one of the targeted politicians told [11] The Olympian . “I think most people in Mason County are very interested in what Adage can do for our community.”

In March, Adage said it was canceling the project because of market conditions. “In each situation there’s always going to be a vocal portion of the population that may make noise in opposition to a project, but really it’s about understanding what the fundamental purpose of the project is,” DePonty said.

In Tallahassee, a biomass plant proposed by another company was withdrawn in 2009 as a grand jury planned to review the financial ties between the wife of Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell and Biomass Gas & Electric, which planned to erect its facility on university property. Virginia Wetherell, who had previously served as a state legislator and headed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, had formed a company with a project backer, public records show.

“It became apparent to the Wetherells that an appearance of impropriety was evident,” the grand jury wrote. Ultimately, Virginia Wetherell withdrew her financial interest in the BG&E project, and her husband withdrew from negotiations. The grand jury determined no laws were broken.

A month before that ruling, the $150 million BG&E project was abandoned. That postscript chagrined the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, but was endorsed by residents of the mostly minority neighborhood for which the project was targeted. “The community where it was going was very much opposed, and the city commissioners were feeling the heat, and the company just decided they weren’t welcome here,” said David Ludder, a Tallahassee attorney who helped residents fight the project.

The industry’s Cleaves said plants now operating “are enthusiastically and universally embraced.” But he acknowledged opposition has been mounting against others proposed.

Critics rally to “debunk biomass”

North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League this year launched a multi-state tour to “debunk biomass,” coinciding with the January release of a report [12] entitled Smoke and Mirrors .

One of its key case studies: A sludge and wood-fired plant planned in Valdosta, Georgia.

There, Wiregrass Power LLC is pressing ahead with a $110 million plant that received hearty support in 2009 from Georgia’s then-Gov. Sonny Perdue. The 40-megawatt facility would create 25 jobs and invest $110 million over three years, announced [13] the governor, who said Georgia’s “business-friendly environment” welcomed Wiregrass Power.

The facility is rising on 22.1 acres next to a wastewater treatment plant, with commercial startup eyed for 2013. Electricity will be sold to Georgia utilities, with the plant powered by “clean wood waste that would otherwise go unused and sludge from the nearby wastewater treatment plant. … Wiregrass will prevent disposal of that same volume of sludge in landfills, creating an additional environmental benefit,” the company said.

Leigh Touchton, president of the Valdosta-Lowndes NAACP, said the plant would harm a county already choked by toxins and on the EPA’s watch list of polluted communities. Her NAACP chapter has called the plant “a clear-cut example of environmental racism.”

“The incinerator is sited within 2 miles of 2 predominantly black elementary schools, 7 large black churches, a predominantly black assisted living facility which serves over 60 families, 2 predominantly black Head Start programs, two huge apartment complexes that are predominantly black, and Valdosta’s most upscale black residential community,” she wrote to President Obama in September.

Touchton said the community, there first, has been powerless to stop industry’s expansion.  “There is no question these pose an enormous public health risk,” she said.

“Ultra-fine particles released from these plants, they cannot be captured by the scrubbers. They are too tiny, they pass through,” Touchton said.

Bob Turner, Wiregrass’s director of project development, said the project will be as green as advertised. “We’ve addressed all those issues in public forums many times. And I guess you just say we disagree with what they say,” Turner said.

Fouling the air in California

In California’s agricultural belt, the two Global Ampersand plants opened in 2008 with the promise of environmental benefits through the burning of woody waste from farms and cities.

Yet even before their opening, allegations of shoddy workmanship dogged the refurbishments of plants that had long lain dormant before their new lives as biomass facilities, according to a lawsuit Global Ampersand LLC filed in 2007 against its general contractor.

That suit, filed in federal court in Fresno, cites an eye-opening series of breakdowns in the $12.6 million renovation projects. In all, Global cited 26 “failures, breaches, and misrepresentations” by contractor Crown Engineering and Construction, Inc., the lawsuit shows — listing them from A to Z.

Among them: Crown failed to properly pour cement when setting the foundation at one plant. “Substandard” welding and other work caused delays and more repairs. Wires were improperly labeled, compressed air connections improperly installed. Unskilled workmen were hired, including an electrical foreman “who had no prior experience in the kind of work required.” Crown intentionally concealed the deteriorated condition of one plant’s economizer, forcing it to “rebuild the economizer on the fly.” Global

Ampersand said it had to hire another contractor to finish the job, pushing the opening back to 2008.

Crown denied the allegations and contended problems were the result of Global’s “negligence.” In November 2009, the case was settled. Crown attorney Michael A. Peters said the settlement included confidentiality provisions and that he could not discuss the case.

Even with that legal matter closed, problems festered under Global’s watch. Court papers filed this year by the U.S. Department of Justice and San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District paint a portrait of sister plants fouling the air and flouting environmental protection laws.

The plants emitted nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and particulate matter in levels exceeding permit requirements many times, court records show. All the while, they failed to submit a proper emissions control plan, emissions source tests or audits to the California pollution control district. They didn’t install systems meant to control emissions of harmful pollutants, and failed to submit quarterly reports detailing “the data and magnitude of excess emissions at the facility.”

The air pollution district filed 38 notices of violation against the plants in a two-year stretch from 2008-10, 23 against Merced Power LLC and 15 against Ampersand Chowchilla Biomass LLC. Under consent decrees, Merced Power paid fines of $492,000, and Ampersand Chowchilla $343,000. Each must install improved air monitoring devices and minimize emissions.

Earlier this year, Global Ampersand sold the two California plants to Akeida Capital Management, LLC, which had been among the complex’s investors.

“We no longer own the company,” Eric Shumway, who was Global Ampersand’s chief operating officer, told iWatch News. “I think I’m just going to take a no comment here.” Pressed about the violations, Shumway said: “There’s a lot of misinformation that has been painting biomass in a bad light.” Asked in a second call about the lawsuit, Shumway said: “I would like to be able to talk to you. I don’t think it would be helpful.”

“Unfortunately, we didn’t own the plant at the time of the violations, so we don’t have a comment,” said Akeida Capital Management spokeswoman Marisa Harary.

The Biomass Power Association portrayed the fines as an isolated incident involving plants not in its organization. “Like any other industry, you will occasionally see a few cases where rules are ignored or not followed explicitly. These cases are by no means indicative of the larger industry,” said spokeswoman Carrie Annand.

Yet to others, the Clean Air Act violations pose real questions. What made the plants green, said environmental chemist Wilma Subra, was the fuel source — burning wood as opposed to coal or gas. But with the pollution controls lacking, Subra said, the case shows that biomass plants can be equal polluters.

“The emissions were over the limit, and as soon as they are over the limit that means they are having an impact, definitely, on the communities around them,” said Subra. “They are using wood as opposed to coal, yet the emissions from these facilities are comparable to emissions to plants that would use coal or natural gas. They’re not doing their due diligence unless the agencies lean on them.”

Posted in Charlotte, Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture, Sierra Club | Leave a comment

* ReVenture Spooked By Legislative Efforts to Remove Their Poultry Credits And…

McKittrick says the protracted battle by ReVenture opponents over processing Mecklenburg’s municipal solid waste also played a role in his decision.”

Thanks to Charlotte Business Journal Senior Staff Writer John Downey  for clarifying what is going on behind the scenes in Raleigh!

Incentives reduction key to trimmed ReVenture facility

Charlotte Business Journal – by John Downey, Senior Staff Writer

May 27, 2011

Duke Energy Carolinas plans to buy less power from ReVenture Park’s waste-to-energy plant after it was spooked by legislative efforts to strip some incentives from the project.

That prompted developer Tom McKittrick to reduce its size to 10 megawatts from 20. At the same time, McKittrick said ReVenture would scrap its controversial plan to use municipal waste from Mecklenburg County as a fuel for the biomass plant.

Duke Carolinas President Brett Carter cites legislation proposed by lawmakers from counties with large poultry operations for Duke’s decreased appetite for power from ReVenture.

The bill cuts back a provision the General Assembly put into law last year. That law enables Duke to count renewable-energy credits from up to 20 megawatts of capacity from the biomass plant against state requirements to generate power from poultry waste.

The fact is that the ability to use those (renewable-energy credits) for poultry-waste requirements adds value to the purchase of power from ReVenture,” Carter says. “Without it, the purchase does not make as much economic sense and we are interested in buying less.”

McKittrick says the protracted battle by ReVenture opponents over processing Mecklenburg’s municipal solid waste also played a role in his decision.

It was quite a reversal for ReVenture. Last July, a flurry of legislative activity pushed by members of the Mecklenburg delegation led to passage of the Cleanfields Act. The law gave triple renewable-energy credits for power purchases from the biomass plant. And it said the credits would be counted first against the purchaser’s poultry-waste requirements.

The Energy Act of 2007 requires N.C. utilities by 2021 to produce 12.5% of the power they sell from renewable sources. The mandates are phased in, including a requirement for utilities to generate 900 gigawatt-hours of power from poultry waste, starting in 2014.

Duke and other utilities have repeatedly contended the poultry technology isn’t advanced enough to be reliable and will make for expensive energy. So the poultry provision of last year’s legislation was attractive to Duke. At the same time, proponents of renewable energy generally liked the measure as well.

But it rankled poultry-waste developers and legislators in counties with large poultry operations.

In March, Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) introduced a bill to strip the poultry provisions from the Cleanfields Act.

That bill, approved by the state Senate on Tuesday and sent on House, cuts back the poultry provision to apply only to the first 10 megawatts of capacity.

As the Senate vote loomed, McKittrick announced he was scaling back the project. “The utility company we are negotiating with has informed us that their appetite for purchasing the renewable energy from ReVenture has been reduced. The size of the power plant we would develop is driven exclusively by the amount of power that can be sold.”

Duke spokesman Jason Walls says McKittrick mischaracterized Duke’s role in the decision. “We never told ReVenture what size plant they should build,” he says.

McKittrick declines to comment on Walls’ contention. But he says the doubts raised by the latest legislative moves and local objections to using Mecklenburg’s waste in the plant made it more viable to opt for a smaller operation.

McKittrick insists cutting back on the waste-to-energy plant will have little effect on the ultimate plans for the ReVenture Park. McKittrick has promoted the development as a clean-energy park that would bring up to $1 billion worth of investment and as many as 900 jobs to the 667-acre brownfield site near Mount Holly.

Posted in Charlotte, Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture, Sierra Club | Leave a comment

* A Big Reason Why We Don’t Need a Gasification Incinerator in Meck County

We’re in the top 10 worst cities in the country for ozone pollution, again. The first three days of June are forecast to be alert days for ozone and particle pollution. We know that gasification incinerators will contribute emissions that will add to these hazards to our health. Tell your elected officials, “NO ReVenture gasification incinerator!”

For additional information concerning the air quality forecast including a detailed forecast discussion, please visit the following link on the NC Division Of Air Quality Web Site: http://www.ncair.org/airaware/forecast.

The Charlotte air quality forecast region includes Cabarrus, Gaston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Union, and southern Iredell Counties.

Protect your Health! Modify your physical activity as needed by referencing the Air Quality Index below.

Note: Open Burning is generally PROHIBITED on Air Quality Action Days. Burning trash and other non-vegetative material is ALWAYS PROHIBITED. For more information and exceptions to the Open Burning Rule, visit http://www.ncair.org/enf/openburn and http://www.ncair.org/rules/rules/sec1900.pdf.

Care for the Air
— Drive less: carpool, vanpool, take the bus, telecommute.
— Conserve electricity.
— Pack a lunch or walk to lunch.
— Avoid idling your vehicle.
— Refuel and mow after 6:00pm.

Air Quality Index (AQI)
Green………..0- 50 AQI……..Good air quality. No health risks are expected. Enjoy outdoor
Yellow…….51-100 AQI……..Moderate air quality. Air quality is okay, but unusually sensitive
……………………………………….people may be affected, especially when the AQI nears 100.
Orange….101-150 AQI……..Air quality is Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups. Children,
……………………………………….active adults, and those with heart or respiratory disease,
……………………………………….including asthma, should limit outdoor activity.
Red……….151-200 AQI……..Unhealthy air quality. Everyone should avoid prolonged outdoor
Purple……201-300 AQI……..Very Unhealthy air quality. Everyone should avoid outdoor

If you want more information on the air quality forecast, or other aspects of the local air quality program, please contact your local air quality agency using the information above. For more information on the U.S. EPA’s AIRNow Program, visit http://www.airnow.gov.

Posted in Charlotte, Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture, Sierra Club | Leave a comment

* Gasification Incinerator Challenged on Environmental Justice Issues

Residents of Port St. Joe, Florida are challenging a proposed biomass gasification incinerator on environmental justice issues. They have informed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that if they grant the air emissions permit for the gasifier, a civil rights claim against the DEP will be filed with the intent of having all federal funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the DEP halted.

Here’s the May 25th Article from the Panama City News Herald:

Permit for Gulf County biomass plant in challenged

TIM CROFT / Florida Freedom

2011-05-21 17:14:59

PORT ST. JOE — A group of local citizens has filed a petition requesting an administrative hearing on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s notice of intent to issue an air emissions permit for the Northwest Florida Renewable Energy Center.

The petition was filed by Margaret Sheehan, a Massachusetts-based environmental attorney. She filed the petition on behalf of a group called Help Save the Apalachicola River, Wewahitchka resident Marilyn Blackwell, Port St. Joe residents Landy Luther and Annie Sue Fields and Tallahassee resident Robert Fulford.

A Tallahassee attorney, David Ludder, has submitted a letter to Gov. Rick Scott as well as the secretary for the DEP alerting them that Ludder represents Fields, Blackwell and Port St. Joe resident John Byrd.

In his letter, Ludder states that if the DEP grants the air emissions permit, Ludder will respond with a civil rights claim against the DEP with the aim of having all federal funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the DEP halted.

Ludder claims that 69 percent of the population living within two kilometers of the proposed woody biomass plant, is African-American, compared to 16.4 percent of the county’s total population, meaning that African-American residents will be unduly and unfairly impacted by air pollution from the plant.

Sheehan said her petition is based on information missing from the draft permit and also what she termed as improper emissions standards used in establishing the permit criteria.

“The most critical aspect of the permit is that due to using the wrong emissions standards it was qualified as a minor source of air pollution,” Sheehan said, noting that distinction allows the plant to avoid more stringent standards she said it should be held to due to the amount of pollutants coming from the plant.

“That has major repercussions for health and the environment.

The Florida Department of Administrative Hearings is expected to schedule a hearing on the permit in the next 30 days. The hearing would be in Tallahassee.

While Sheehan’s petition targets a state agency, Dr. Bill Sammons, a pediatrician based in Washington State, said Port St. Joe city and county officials should be taking a closer look at the plant and its “long-term impacts on the community.”

Sammons, who like Sheehan provided a presentation during informational meetings sponsored by Gulf Citizens for Clean, Renewable Energy, said the fundamental problem with the plant is the emissions profile.

“There is absolute consensus in the medical community that there is no safe threshold for particulate emissions,” Sammons said, adding that while scrubbers and bag houses at the plant may help rid some particulate pollution, recent science has indicated there is little protection for the microscopic “nano” particulates, not fully addressed in current regulations.

“We still get back to the fundamental point is that biomass combustion has health impacts. I do not think you can find credible studies that will tell you there is a safe level of particulates,” Sammons added.

Organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association as well as federal and state physicians’ organizations have expressed deep concerns about the burning of biomass.

Sammons argues that regulatory agencies are playing catch-up to science and falling behind. Regulations, he contends, simply have not kept pace with science that shows that small particulate pollution for combustion of substances such as woody biomass have significant health impacts on breathing, heart conditions, immune systems and more.

Sammons noted that woody biomass plants similar to the one proposed for Port St. Joe are smaller in scale and producing a relatively small amount of electricity.

“(The Port St. Joe plant) is a huge experiment,” said Joy Towles Ezell, a Florida-based environmental advocate critical of the project.

Rentech has said its has no plans to use fast-growing grasses in the process. However,  Sammons and Sheehan said that flies in the face of the language of the air emissions permit given that the company could reverse course on those highly-invasive species as language about their use remains in the permit documents.

If the company did not intend to use fast-growing grasses the company could have stated that in the permit documents.

“There is a contradiction between what (Rentech is) saying and what is in the permit documents,” Sheehan said. “They still have the option. The door is open to go back later.”

Sammons also said that his research into the SilvaGas gasifier that will be used for the first time on a commercial scale in Port St. Joe is, at its most basic, technology developed by Germany in the 1930s. He said the assertions about carbon neutrality are incorrect given the levels of particulates and carbon dioxide emitting from the plant.

The Department of Energy has put a loan guarantee for the project on hold, but that would not prevent the project from moving ahead, but only whittle at the profit margin, Sheehan said. The loan guarantee was just one form of subsidy, Sheehan noted, and not having the guarantee does not render the project unviable.

“These things won’t be built without a lot of tax money being thrown into it,” said Towles Ezell.

As for the potential jobs to be created by the project, Towles Ezell said those benefits are outweighed by the risks.

“We have too much dioxin already,” she said. “You had the paper mill and Arizona Chemical and now they are gone. You don’t need to add any more toxins in the air.

“You have the most wonderful natural resources. You should build on them and not destroy them. Build on what you have.”


Posted in Charlotte, Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture, Sierra Club | Leave a comment

* Air Pollution Around Schools and Student Health and Performance

This May 2011 study from the University of Michigan confirms the impact of air pollution on young students:

Air Pollution Around Schools Is Linked To Poorer Student Health And Academic Performance

Paul Mohai, Byoung-Suk Kweon, Sangyun Lee, and Kerry Ard

Health Aff May 2011 vol. 30 no. 5 852-862


Exposing children to environmental pollutants during important times of physiological development can lead to long-lasting health problems, dysfunction, and disease. The location of children’s schools can increase their exposure. We examined the extent of air pollution from industrial sources around public schools in Michigan to find out whether air pollution jeopardizes children’s health and academic success. We found that schools located in areas with the highest air pollution levels had the lowest attendance rates—a potential indicator of poor health—and the highest proportions of students who failed to meet state educational testing standards. Michigan and many other states currently do not require officials considering a site for a new school to analyze its environmental quality. Our results show that such requirements are needed. For schools already in existence, we recommend that their environmental quality should be investigated and improved if necessary.


Paul Mohai (pmohai@umich.edu) is a professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment and a faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research, both at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.

Byoung-Suk Kweon is a research investigator at the Institute for Social Research and an adjunct assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan.

3Sangyun Lee is a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan.

Kerry Ard is a graduate student in sociology and environmental policy at the University of Michigan.


Our children deserve better than to be exposed to additional air pollutants from a garbage-to-energy gasification incinerator. Read about our local conditions below:

Schools near Proposed ReVenture Gasification Incinerator

West Side Schools Deserve Better Than This

Posted in Charlotte, Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture, Sierra Club | Leave a comment

* Iceland slammed over dirty waste incinerators

You hear a lot of people talking about how well incinerators operate in other parts of the world. What you don’t often hear is about how more and more information is coming forth about these landfills in the sky. Here’s a report form Iceland.

Iceland slammed over dirty waste incinerators

Iceland’s National Audit Office has reprimanded the country’s environment agency and environment ministry for failing to comply with pollution monitoring requirements set by the EU regarding waste incineration.

Tests conducted earlier this year revealed extremely high dioxin levels around four incineration plants. The tests were prompted after milk was found to be contaminated with dioxin in north west Iceland, near one of the plants.

Because of Iceland’s small size, the environment ministry had pushed for exemption for older installations from the 2003 waste incineration directive. The EU gave its consent, although officials were reluctant as they knew small old plants tended to be highly polluting and badly managed.

Monitoring requirements for dioxin and other pollutants were set by the EU but the audit office found these were not implemented. Readings taken in 2007 which showed high dioxin levels were ignored when action should have been taken.

One waste incinerator was not tested until early this year, after the dioxin issue had hit the news. The installation turned out to have extremely high dioxin concentrations. Both this plant and the one in the north west have now been closed.

The audit office found that the reason why Iceland wanted the exemption was because of the added financial burden that local authorities would have to face in bringing the plants up to standard. Environmental and health concerns were mostly ignored.

Follow Up:

National Audit Office and press release (11 May, in Icelandic). See also environment agency and environment ministry

Posted in Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture | Leave a comment

May 31 WFAE Charlotte Talks – ” Zero Waste Initiatives”

Plan to tune in, listen, and call in (or email questions and comments) about how we can bring Zero Waste philosophy to Mecklenburg County! If you miss it, listen at 9:00 PM to the rebroadcast or the podcast after the 31st.

Join the Show:
From 9 to 10 a.m.

Tuesday May 31, 2011 
Zero Waste Initiatives
Mecklenburg county officials recently announced that a controversial landfill won’t be expanded and that they won’t collaborate with a project aimed at taking some of the county’s waste and burning it to create electricity. But we still create tons of trash in this region every day so conservation groups and the county waste department are looking at ways to reduce waste. Zero waste initiatives are popping up all over the country. We will talk about zero waste; what it is, who is introducing such initiatives and if it’s even possible. The zero waste phenomena.Guest
Shannon Bins
– Executive Director, Sustain Charlotte
Laurette Hill – Waste Reduction Core Process Manager, Mecklenburg County Solid Waste

Add and read comments

Posted in Charlotte, Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture, Sierra Club | Leave a comment

* Springfield Mass Revokes Permit for 35 MW Biomass Plant

Another community says NO to a biomass incinerator. The permit was revoked because citizens organized and got accurate information and facts to their elected officials.  Read about the ruling from one of the citizen groups here:

Springfield Mass Revokes Permit for 35 MW Biomass Plant

On Monday night (5/24/11), the Springfield, MA City Council voted to revoke the special permit that was issued 3 years ago to build a 35 MW wood burning biomass power plant in the middle of Springfield, MA, by a margin of 10-2.

This proposed wood burning incinerator would have emitted carbon dioxide and particulate matter at a higher rate than a 50 year old coal plant, added hundreds of tons of annual air pollution to an already polluted city, threatened forests, inefficiently burned any clean “waste” wood that may exist, increased the threat of spreading invasive pests and pathogens across the state, wasted literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of valuable “clean” energy public subsidies, and yet would have produced only 0.25% more electric for Massachusetts, power that is not even needed.

The developers who have said they would never do anything to harm the citizens of Springfield, have now promised to sue the city for about $50 million dollars in large part to “recoup” money they would have gotten from taxpayers subsidies if the incinerator was built.  The game for this incinerator is not completely over, but much closer to being so.

For more on the story, listen to:


While the state gave the green light to burning more wood that the entire commercial timber harvest in Massachusetts in the middle of a city with already failing air quality without even requiring an Environmental Impact Report, a local activist group Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield  www.springfieldincinerator.info/  and the Springfield City Council proved that an active citizenry, democracy and courageous public officials who represent the health and interests of their constituents over a fatter bank account for developers still lives on in some quarters!

There are still 2, possibly 3, large tree burning power plants proposed for western MA, so the work goes on, but finally the truth about tree burning biomass has gotten its shoes tied and is catching up to the lies that are halfway around the world!


Massachusetts Forest Watch
Speak Up For The Trees!

Posted in Charlotte, Forsite, Incinerator, Incinerator Free Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg, ReVenture, Sierra Club | Leave a comment