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LGR partners answer community concerns

Liberty Green Renewables LLC has been watching with great interest the articles and opinions expressed in the Clarion News regarding our proposed Milltown Clean Energy facility. We understand that residents have questions about this facility and we plan to address such questions as soon as we have more definitive information and a forum to communicate the answers. It is unfortunate that the weather caused the cancellation of the scheduled Crawford County Commissioners meeting on Jan. 29, as we were looking forward to this opportunity to provide the most up-to-date information possible.

In becoming the home to the Milltown Clean Energy facility, Crawford County and Milltown will become part of the new green energy industry and a regional leader in environmental stewardship. There is a growing recognition and acceptance that greenhouse gas emissions should be curtailed and that the United States should become more energy independent. As a result of these trends, renewable sources are likely to be a dominant part of new power supply addition in the United States. Gone are the days of constructing coal-fired power plants — however modern — to meet the ever-increasing electrical demands of our growing population. Rather, the bulk of new electrical demand will be met with renewable energy production facilities such as biomass, wind and solar.

Of the various forms of renewable energy, Southern Indiana is not blessed with economically-viable wind and solar resources. However, there are abundant forest product industries and the resulting woody biomass by-products that the Milltown Clean Energy plant will use. A new use for these forest product-related fuels will help to ensure the future viability of this regionally important industry along with its jobs and tax base. Biomass-to-electricity is a type of renewable energy that is currently being advocated by the Obama administration as an attractive option for reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on foreign countries to meet our energy needs.

Our proposed plant will only process and combust renewable fuels such as sawmill by-products; furniture and cabinet manufacturing by-products; tree limbs and storm damage debris; land clearing residues; limited clean construction/demolition wood wastes; forest residues from timbering operations; and potentially corn stalks and other agricultural crop by-products. The economics of biomass fuel do not support harvesting trees without a higher valued purpose such as lumber or veneer. Storm debris from the recent ice storm would make a great fuel were the plant operating today. Instead, much of this potential fuel material will be left to decay, creating the same carbon dioxide emissions as if it were turned into energy. Other fuels will not be accepted as they are not considered renewable fuels and will not enable the energy produced to be eligible for Renewable Energy Credits or RECs.

Although not currently the law in Indiana, 24 states have enacted renewable portfolio standards, which require electric utilities to obtain a percentage of their requirements from renewable sources. The Obama administration has voiced its support for a national renewable energy standard, and there are multiple bills in the current Indiana General Assembly that would implement such a program in Indiana, if passed. To comply with these renewable portfolio standards, the purchaser of green energy from the Milltown Clean Energy facility will mandate that all energy produced be eligible for RECs. Crawford and Harrison County residents should put aside any concerns that they may have regarding the types of fuel that the facility will process. Only clean biomass will be used and minor amounts of propane or fuel oil for start-up. Liberty Green Renewables has been working on this project for more than a year. We initially considered five different locations in four different counties. Officials in each of those counties have been aware of and supportive of our ongoing efforts. We only recently chose the site northwest of Milltown and purchased the property. Until the final design for the plant is complete, many questions can't be answered as precisely as we would like. For instance, precise estimates of air and water emissions from the facility will not be available until the air and water permits are in a draft form. What we do know is that the facility is being designed so that it will be considered a "minor" source under criteria established by the U.S. EPA and the State of Indiana.

From a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, biomass power generation is considered a "carbon neutral" alternative. Trees and plants absorb and store CO2 during their growth cycle and release CO2 when they decay on the forest floor or in landfills. In this way, biomass facilities such as Milltown Clean Energy do not produce any CO2 that would not otherwise be released as part of the natural carbon cycle, making them an important tool in combating global warming. Emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates will be less than 10 percent of those associated with a comparable sized coal-fired power plant due to the state-of-the-art technology that we have selected for the project and the inherent clean-fuel characteristics of biomass. As with any project of this type, the public will have the right to review the permit applications once they are submitted to the appropriate environmental regulatory agencies.

Only a small portion of the water used by this facility will be discharged; the vast majority will be converted to steam and used to power a turbine to produce electricity. Disposition of plant wastewater has not yet been determined. However, any potential discharge to the Blue River or any other water body will meet the limitations imposed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The Milltown Clean Energy facility will have significant positive economic impact to the Milltown area and Crawford County. During the 18-month construction period, more than100 skilled craftsmen and construction workers will be needed. These people will have money to spend money in the local communities. The 25 full-time jobs needed to operate the facility and the 25-plus jobs associated with fuel supply operations will bring a significant ongoing payroll to the community. Seasonal contract labor required for maintenance of the facility will bring additional people to the community with money to spend. The tax base associated with the plant will increase county tax revenues without increasing property tax rates, and the millions of dollars spent each year on fuel purchases will help existing, and perhaps new, forest products operations in the region remain viable. In short, this facility will be good for Crawford County, it will be good for the forest products industry, it will be good for Indiana, and it will be good for the environment.

We look forward to a constructive dialog with local government officials and interested citizens regarding the Milltown Clean Energy facility. Liberty Green Renewables will do its best to provide timely answers to questions that arise. However, we ask for patience and understanding from the community as we finalize the design of the plant and develop the information necessary to answer those questions.

It is our hope that when the community has an opportunity to consider the full range of impacts, then they will welcome this project.

Terry Naulty and Larry Ott, Partners of Liberty Green Renewables LLC
February 11, 2009

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