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Questions Biomass plant

Lincoln, Mass.

The proposal to build a costly wood (biomass) burning electrical generation plant near Milltown in Crawford County is being sold to everyone as "clean and green." It is neither.

The fact is this 32 MW "biomass" plant will spew out more CO2 than a coal plant of similar size — at least 500 million pounds of CO2 every year, 500 million pounds that will accelerate global warming.

The proponents argue that the trees burned in the plant will grow back, so the project is "carbon neutral." However, as the EPA stated on April 24, 2009, in the Endangerment Proposal on CO2:

" for a given amount of CO2 released today, 30 percent will be removed over a few centuries, and the remaining 20 percent will only slowly decay over time such that it will take many thousands of years to remove from the atmosphere." (Emphasis added.)

In simple fact, trees don't grow fast enough to reabsorb all that CO2 within a window of time that will actually help avert the climate crisis. The project is not carbon neutral.

Burning trees puts more carbon in the air and worsens climate change because every molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere has the same impact as every other molecule, whether the CO2 came from a burning a tree or a tailpipe.

The false argument that often prevails is that this massive CO2 release is "natural." Sure, this carbon was part of nature before the wood was incinerated, but what matters is the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, not where it came from. Regardless of where it came from or what you call it, nothing will prevent the CO2 emitted from the smokestack at the Milltown plant from adding to the burden in the atmosphere.

The plant developers also claim the plant is "low emissions" — but that doesn't address CO2. There is nothing in the proposed emissions controls on this plant that significantly reduces CO2 emissions.

Just look at the lack of common sense here. Burning wood increases the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. And cutting down trees reduces the amount of CO2 taken out of the atmosphere. That's a double whammy for the environment.

The bottom line is that CO2 is CO2. The biomass plant in Milltown will emit more than 500 million pounds of CO2 every year. That's a fact.

It isn't "clean and green." It's a travesty.

The current Congressional climate bill (ACES) is packed with incentives that make developers rich and taxpayers poor. The current Senate version lets the power company charge an extra 2.1 cents per kwh to supply you with energy from this plant. The Senate bill also offers cut-rate loans. The potential for a big grant from ARRA makes construction even cheaper, and return on investment even higher.

And none of that accounts for the increased health costs associated with the emissions from these plants that increase harmful ground level ozone and particulates that increase asthma, worsen chronic pulmonary disease and precipitate cardiovascular problems or heart attacks. In fact, the air permit application shows an artificially low number for particulate emissions and for NOx because the emissions from truck traffic to haul the wood to the plant are not accounted for.

This scam is about more than CO2. This biomass plant is about investors' profits, not a clean environment or clean power.

The way this plant is being promoted is a scam — costing you in dollars, in health and in your children's futures. There are cleaner sources of energy available in Indiana — even coal. Wisely using the provisions of the ARRA and the ACES bill can make clean, affordable energy available for Indiana and be a much better investment of taxpayer money than funding a wood burning electrical generation plant that is actually "dirtier" than a coal power plant.

Editor's note: Sammons, who graduated from the University of Rochester (N.Y.) School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1974, currently is a clinical consultant in pediatrics and member of the Section on Computers and the Section on Infant and Child Development of the American Academy of Pediatrics; a partner at Unexpected Solutions Inc.; president of Red-Tae Associates Ltd.; and guardian ad litem and parenting coordinator (court officer positions) in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.

Dr. Bill Sammons
September 02, 2009

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