Forest biomass supply research team chosen

Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA -- The state Department of Natural Resources has selected a research team to study forest biomass supply in a project that is the first of its kind in the nation.

The University of Washington School of Forest Resources will work with TSS Consultants to document the economically and ecologically available forest biomass in the state's working forests.

The study, using part of a $1 million grant DNR received from the U.S. Forest Service this summer, will be conducted over the next 10 months.

To determine what is available, factors including environmental protection, road access, existing infrastructure and travel distance to a facility will be evaluated.

"It is important to me that we continue to move forward with the forest biomass initiative thoughtfully," said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.

"Understanding what is actually available in our forests will help ensure that bioenergy facilities in Washington are appropriately scaled to our resource base."

Biomass cogeneration facilities burn forest slash, or wood waste, known as hog fuel.

Among the biomass projects proposed in the state are two on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Nippon Paper Industries USA Inc. plans a $71 million biomass boiler expansion, while Port Townsend Paper Corp. mill has received the go-ahead from the state Department of Ecology for a $55 million biomass project.

Both would create steam to run the plant while also generating electricity for sale. Both are expected to be online next year.

The Nippon facility would create up to 20 megawatts of electricity for sale, while the Port Townsend mill would generate up to 24 megawatts of electricity for sale.

Objections

Permits for both have been appealed.

Seven environmental groups lost an appeal of Nippon's shoreline development permit before the Port Angeles City Council on Monday.

The groups are considering their next step and have said they plan to file an appeal with the state Pollution Control Hearings Board in the spring.

The groups are the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club, No Biomass Burn, Port Townsend AirWatchers, the Center for Environmental Law and Policy of Spokane, the World Temperate Rainforest Network, the Olympic Forest Coalition and the Olympic Environmental Council

Five of those groups -- excluding the Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club -- have filed an appeal with the state Pollution Control Hearings Board against the Port Townsend mill's permit from Ecology.

One of the reasons for their objection to the facilities is a concern that biomass facilities would threaten the health of forests through removing slash.

They also have said that the plants would increase air pollution.

The study, using part of a $1 million grant DNR received from the U.S. Forest Service this summer, will be conducted over the next 10 months.

To determine what is available, factors including environmental protection, road access, existing infrastructure and travel distance to a facility will be evaluated.

For more information about DNR's forest biomass initiative and the original request for proposals for the study, visit http://tinyurl.com/2bj473t.

The supply study is required by the state's Forest Biomass Supply Agreements Bill, passed by the state Legislature earlier this year.

Later this month, DNR will submit to the Legislature an update on the biomass initiative.

It will include updates on the pilot projects identified in state legislation as well as the literature review on the carbon neutrality of forest biomass.

Biomass legislation

In 2009, legislation was enacted authorizing DNR to implement biomass energy pilot projects in Eastern and Western Washington.

"Removing biomass feedstock in ecologically sustainable ways to produce energy [liquid fuels or heat and electricity] can provide income for forest landowners while improving forest health, create rural jobs, reduce wildfires and greenhouse gas emissions, and aid in the production of renewable energy," DNR said in a statement.

Last modified: December 08. 2010 11:47PM
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