Planned La Pine, OR Biomass Facility Hinges on Market

- by Dylan J. Darling, March 17, 2015, Bend Bulletin

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"423","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 333px; height: 171px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","title":"Photo: Biomass Magazine"}}]]A wood-burning power plant remains a possibility for La Pine, with the city now taking the lead on the project from Deschutes County and the company behind it waiting for a change in the energy market.

“It’s just been on hold due to market conditions,” said Rob Broberg, president of Biogreen Sustainable Energy Co., based in Vancouver, Washington. “And we plan on holding out until we are able to market and sell power.”

The company must find an energy buyer to make the planned plant economically viable, said Rick Allen, La Pine city manager.

“They need to find a power company that wants to buy their power,” he said. “…That’s really the issue.”

The $75 million, 25-megawatt biomass plant would produce enough electricity to power about 19,000 homes, Broberg said. The plant would burn wood — limbs and other scrap left over after logging, debris from thinning projects and urban waste — to heat water, create steam and turn a turbine. Interested power companies would likely be in California, where the state requires an increasing percentage of its power to come from “greener” sources such as biomass, wind and solar.

Local Opposition Affects Oregon Biofuel Plant

- by Al Maiorino, March 3, 2015, Environmental Leader

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"295","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"319","style":"width: 333px; height: 221px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","width":"480"}}]]In 2014, the United States Departments of the Navy, Energy and Agriculture awarded a $70 million grant to Red Rock Biofuels for the design, construction, commissioning and performance testing of a new biofuel refinery.  The biorefinery is planned for Lakeview, Oregon, close to the Fremont Nation Forest and the intersecting state lines of Oregon, Nevada, and California. This new renewable project aims to expand military fuel sources, improve reliability of the nation’s fuel supply and prevent supply disruption to reinforce the nation’s energy security.  Despite these benefits that bring additional employment and revenue benefits for the local community of Lakeview, NIMBY, or “not in my backyard,” opponents to biofuel refineries across the United States run fierce opposition campaigns that threaten project completion.  These campaigns can often result in project delays or even cancellation all together, and despite a properly zoned site.

Two Lake County Commissioners, Brad Winters and Ken Kestner, support the biofuel project and believe that when completed, the project will improve Lakeview’s air quality by creating healthier forests and preventing forest fires. Additionally, Oregon Business wrote an economic report stating that the biofuel plant would create up to “25 direct and 79 to 109 indirect and induced jobs,” resulting in an increase in labor income. However, Commissioner Winters acknowledged the myths promoted by the opposition that take hold by noting that those opposed to the creation of the biorefinery are not basing their concerns and objections on factual information.  Winters emphasized the importance of community members’ attendance at review workshops and hearings in order to become more informed as state and federal agencies evaluate the proposal as a prerequisite for completion.

Despite a successful rezone of the proposed site by the Lake County Planning Board, opponents remain focused on keeping the proposal out of their community. They fear that transporting these biofuels through the Lake County railroad from Lakeview to Alturas could possibly result in derailments with damaging effects on the community. The opposition is highly organized, holding meetings to strategize and planning petition drives to re-open the process for public comment before the County Commissioners. As is the case with some projects, the opposition group is also instigating a recall drive against Lake County Commissioners and Lakeview Town Council members, showing that all land use truly is political in nature.

Meanwhile, supporters are hoping that this project will receive the necessary approvals according to current plans so construction can begin in summer or fall of 2015 for operations to commence by 2016.  Just as the opponents have utilized grassroots tactics to add to their numbers, so too much supporters. To save time and money, companies must engage communities and stakeholders throughout the entire permitting process to ensure that community members are informed and engaged every step. By identifying and mobilizing members of what is often the silent majority, public support can be built throughout Lake County for a quick and successful project approval.

Lakeview Biofuel Plant Proposal Raises Air Quality Concerns

- September 25, 2014, Oregon Public Broadcasting

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"295","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 300px; height: 199px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;"}}]]A project proposed in Lakeview, Oregon, would turn woody biomass from logging into biofuels for Southwest Airlines, the U.S. Navy and Marines.

The biofuel would have fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional jet fuel and diesel, but some worry the project might add to existing air quality problems in southern Oregon.

Red Rock Biofuels of Fort Collins, Colorado, received a $4.1 million design and engineering grant from the U.S. Department of Defense earlier to help develop the project.

On Friday, the department announced new contracts with the company to supply fuel to the U.S. Navy and Marines. This week, Southwest Airlines announced plans to buy 3 million gallons of the company’s low-carbon jet fuel.

The biofuel refinery has yet to be built, but it’s clearly gaining momentum.

Betty Riley, executive director of the South Central Oregon Economic Development District, said most people in the community are “tentatively optimistic” that the project will be built as planned. But they’re cautious about new developments – particularly after Iberdrolas decided to halt construction on its $100 million Lakeview biomass plant in 2011.

“It’s a new technology, so its always challenging to see if they can make it pencil,” Riley said. “But apparently they’ve done a lot of background work, and with the contracts and the support of the federal government, it is something that hopefully can sustain itself over time.”

But Lakeview resident Chris Zinda sees a problem looming. The area already has too much air pollution, he says, and a biofuel plant would add more.

“Lakeview already has poor air quality as it is,” Zinda said. “We’ve permitted a biomass facility in our already poor air quality. Now we have a proposed biofuel plant to boot.”

Zinda recently joined the Northwest Environmental Defense Center and several other environmental groups in petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to reclassify Lakeview as a “non-attainment area” – or an area that doesn’t meet air quality standards under the Clean Air Act. If successful, the petition would result in new rules that would require Red Rock Biofuels to reduce or offset its air emissions so it doesn’t add to existing air pollution.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has recognized Lakeview’s air quality problem. The levels of particulate matter in the air exceeds the federally allowed limit – mostly because of wood stove pollution that gets trapped in the area during weather inversions.

The agency has proposed a plan that aims to avoid an EPA “non-attainment area” designation. The plan acknowledges that additional industry proposed in the Lakeview area will bump up against air pollution limits, preventing the state from issuing development permits.

“Any intermediate size to large industry wishing to expand or establish in Lakeview is restricted from doing so,” the agency states in justifying its plan.

So, its plan recommends replacing old wood stoves and shifting people away from wood-fired heat. It also proposes allowing companies to buy wood stove emissions offsets.

But Zinda says the DEQ hasn’t gone far enough. He wants the EPA to require all major polluters in Lakeview to reduce their emissions, as it would if the area were classified as “non-attainment.”

“Why should the citizens pay in their health and pocketbook while industry continues to pollute?” he said. “Corporations should at least be required to pay to worsen our air quality.”