Biomass power plant finds wood to burn
The company that wants to build a controversial wood-burning power plant near Shelton has signed a fuel-supply contract with Mason County’s largest private timberland owner – Green Diamond Resource Co.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Adage spokesman Tom DePonty said the agreement should provide about 20 percent of the 604,000 tons of wood debris the company needs to power its plant each year.
It is the first fuel-supply contract signed by Adage and a forest landowner for the $250 million project.
“We are a key step closer to delivering the jobs and renewable-energy potential of forest energy in Mason County,” Adage President Reed Wills said in a statement Thursday night.
The project has been a hot topic in Mason County for months, with opponents critical of air pollution, truck traffic and noise from the plant and supporters touting the jobs, renewable energy and tax revenue it would generate.
The fuel supplied by Green Diamond would be woody debris left on the ground after logging operations, DePonty said.
“Green Diamond is pleased to find a productive use for wood fiber that is currently left in the forest or burned to reduce fire hazard,” Green Diamond public-affairs manager Patti Case said.
The wood-supply announcement is the latest in a flurry of activity involving the project.
A group calling itself the Concerned Citizens of Mason County filed a petition last week with the Mason County commissioners and Port of Shelton commissioners calling for a countywide advisory measure on the November ballot for voters to support or oppose the project.
The petition was signed by some 3,200 people, representing about 10 percent of the registered voters in the county, said Beth McBain, an organizer of the new nonprofit group and a resident of Hiawatha Park, which is adjacent to the proposed biomass plant site.
“They dismissed it out of hand,” McBain said of the elected officials’ response.
Neighbors are equally concerned about air emissions from the wood-waste-burning plant and the potential of declining property values and stymied home sales.
“Homeowners who have had their beautiful, high-value homes for sale have had potential buyers turn away immediately once they learn the proximity of the biomass plant to the properties they are viewing,” the petition says.
In addition, the active medical staff at Mason General Hospital signed a petition opposed to the project and delivered it last week to the county and port commissioners, as well as the county and state medical associations.
The petition, which does not represent the position of the hospital, said the health risks posed by plant emissions are not acceptable, said Dr. Chris Penoyar, a family physician.
Specifically, the regulations to control soot and other small particles released by the plant are not keeping pace with research evidence linking these pollutants to heart and respiratory diseases in children, the elderly and other at-risk populations, Penoyar said.
Adage officials took the petitions in stride, noting that other community groups, including the Mason County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council of Mason County, have recently voiced formal support for the project.
The project will bring 400 jobs during 2.5 years of construction and provide 24 jobs at the plant, 100 jobs supplying the plant and $2.4 million in taxes to state and local government, EDC officials said.
“This is the type of project that we want to see in Mason County,” EDC executive director Matt Matayoshi said in a prepared statement. “It provides jobs, tax base in our community and new industry related to diversified forest products.”
Adage, a Pennsylvania-based joint venture of Duke Energy and AREVA, a global energy firm, is moving the project forward on other fronts. They include:
- The company has reached agreement on a draft lease with the Port of Shelton to lease 87 acres of port property for $150,000 a year. The lease won’t be signed until Adage has all the other permits in hand it needs to build and operate the plant.
- Last week, Adage finalized its permit to the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, which must issue an operating permit governing air pollution from the project.
The air agency has 60 days to issue a preliminary ruling, followed by a 30-day public-comment period and a public hearing before any final decision, agency engineer Gordon Lance said.
- Mason County has until the end of September to complete review of the environmental assessment of the project submitted to the county by Adage in late June. The county hired Pacific International Engineering of Olympia to conduct the review at a cost of $12,300, county community development manager Barbara Adkins said.
“This is a complex, overwhelming task,” she said. “We needed someone with more expertise on a project like this.”
Adage is footing the bill for the review at the request of the county but has no influence over the consultant, Adage public-affairs director Tom DePonty said.
The company hopes to begin plant construction in early 2011.
McBain said the concerned citizens group has hired Seattle environmental attorney David Bricklin to pursue a legal challenge.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The plant would produce 55 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 40,000 homes. The project qualifies as a source of renewable energy under Initiative 937, approved by the voters in 2006.
Wood-burning plants produce 15 percent to 40 percent more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity produced than coal. Wood is considered a carbon-neutral source in state, federal and international law, but that’s the subject of ongoing debate.
About 100 delivery and wood supply trucks would arrive at the plant 2 miles northeast of Shelton every day.
The plant is designed to meet federal and state pollution requirements, but the nearly 100 tons of microscopic particles that could escape into the air after combustion have emerged as the major health concern.