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Community urged to attend biomass hearing

Marengo, Ind.

In the past 12 months, the Concerned Citizens of Crawford County has attended every Crawford County Commissioners' meeting, Crawford County Council meeting, Milltown Town Council meeting and many of the Blue River Regional Water District board meetings. Also attended were the Blue River Commission meetings.

Representatives of the Concerned Citizens of Crawford County have attended meetings with representatives of Gov. Mitch Daniels, Rep. Baron Hill, Sen. Evan Bayh, Sen. Richard Lugar and State Sen. Jim Lewis. Meetings were held in person with State Sen. Beverly Gard, who is chair of the State Senate Energy and Environmental Policy Committee, and State Sen. Richard Young. Dr. William Sammons spoke about the health effects of biomass combustion at two public meetings that were held in Scottsburg and Bloomington. Attending the Bloomington meeting, which was hosted by the Indiana Forest Alliance and the Concerned Citizens of Crawford County, were State Rep. Matt Pierce and Kerwin Olson of Citizens Action Coalition.

Letters voicing their concerns about the proposed biomass incinerator have been written by State Sen. Richard Young, the Crawford County Soil and Water Conservation, the Blue River Commission and the Big Blue River of the Ohio Landowners Association. North Milltown Landowners Association has joined the local opposition movement. Liberty Green Renewables has proposed another biomass incinerator near Scottsburg. This has resulted in the formation of the Scottsburg Concerned Citizens group.

The following national organizations and professionals are just a sampling of the groups supporting the opposition against biomass incineration:

Indiana Sierra Club, Ecolaw, Dr. William Sammons, Dr. Ron Saff, Joy Ezell and Hope For Clean Water, Energy Justice, Hoosier Environmental Council, Forest Alliance, Indiana Heartwood, the Forrest Lucas family, Concerned Citizens of Russell (Mass.), Dr. William Holt of Louisville, Native Forest Council, Mike Ewall with Action PA (Pennsylvania), Protect Our Woods, Kerwin Olson of Citizen Action Coalition, Hampden (Mass.) District Medical Society and attorney Margaret Sheehan.

We appreciate the efforts from all of the groups that support the opposition. Included in the local opposition support are approximately 2,000 petition signers. Some of the issues that have rallied support are:

1.) Biomass combustion is 1-1/2 times dirtier than coal.

2.) Biomass is not clean or green.

3.) The air emissions will include 98 hazardous chemicals. Dioxin, mercury, hexavalent chromium, furons and particulates are among the 98 chemicals. Biomass incinerators are not required to account for their C02 emissions.

4.) The Indiana Department of Environmental Management's draft air permit for the LGR Milltown biomass incinerator indicates it will be considered a minor source polluter. LGR submitted very vague specifications for the incinerator.

Even though the information was vague, the air permit draft shows that one major pollutant category will be 249.9 tons. If that number were 250 tons, the incinerator would be considered a major source polluter, requiring much more stringent standards. Two or three other pollutant categories were similarly close to major pollutant status.

5.) The possibility of increased negative health issues due to the hazardous air emissions.

6.) Fuel descriptions have changed to include demolition and construction debris. As a supplier of electricity, they can apply for, in the future, an emergency change of fuel which could possibly include hazardous fuel not presently listed on their fuel descriptions.

7.) The site is an environmentally fragile location setting 1/2 mile from the pristine Blue River. In a public meeting at Scottsburg, LGR acknowledged the Milltown site is ecologically sensitive.

8.) According to Sam Frushour, associated with Indiana University in Bloomington, the proposed site is a compound sinkhole which is small sinkholes within a large sinkhole. His map of the site includes 10 caves surrounding the site, as well as a cave located on the site.

9.) The proposed biomass incinerator could endanger the habitat of local endangered species.

10.) Due to the karst topography of the site and the presence of underground springs, there is a risk of contaminating the groundwater which provides drinking water for our community.

11.) The biomass incinerator's consumption of approximately 700,000 gallons of clean drinking water could possibly deplete the community's water supply.

12.) In a document dated Sept. 28, 2009, to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, LGR states that they will be using land application of the non-contact cooling water for switchgrass production. It is also stated the non-contact cooling water may be discharged off the site. Is this an acknowledgment that the possibility exists that the water will migrate off the site or possibly be discharged into the river? What does off site mean?

13.) According to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, half of the Ohio River is classified as poor quality for contact recreation. The Ohio River is the third dirtiest river in the world. Do we want the Blue River to join this list?

14.) There have been 1,600 violations of the Clean Water Act in Indiana since 2005, according to the EPA.

15.) The burning of wood is more efficient to heat individual homes than as fuel to produce electricity.

16.) A Massachusetts state study showed 14,300 acres of timber would have to be cut annually to provide fuel for a 50-megawatt biomass incinerator.

17.) It appears the incinerator may be built with taxpayer and ratepayer dollars.

18.) There is a risk of fire combustion due to the massive fuel storage pile. Who will be responsible for funding the purchase of fire and other equipment required to provide protection for the incinerator in the event of a disaster?

19.) The site is located approximately one mile from Milltown Elementary School and the Milltown elderly housing.

20.) In previous applications submitted to IDEM, thus far, LGR does not include information on how they will dispose of the ash. However, in a document to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, it is stated that LGR is evaluating the potential for an on-site landfill to dispose of the ash.

21.) The cultivation of switchgrass, which according to USDA, is toxic to horses, goats and sheep. Also, switchgrass could invade hay and pasture fields.

Considering these issues and other concerns, it is imperative that you show your support by attending the IDEM meeting. The meeting will be Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 5:30 p.m. at the Crawford County 4-H Community Park, located at 1095 S. S.R. 66 south of Marengo, across from Crawford County Junior-Senior High School.

Dr. William Sammons will speak on the negative health effects of biomass combustion at Milltown Elementary School on Monday, Jan. 11, at 6:30 p.m. Please attend this meeting. Dr. Sammons' credentials include being a clinical fellow in pediatrics at Harvard University and having started a practice which specialized in post hospital care of premature infants. He then built the practice into a four-person group, and the practice currently employs five pediatricians and a pulmonologist. He has written multiple professional publications and articles in parent papers and magazines and has done more than a hundred presentations.

Thank you for your support.

Cara Beth Jones
January 06, 2010

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