PORT TOWNSEND — The biomass cogeneration plan proposed by the Port Townsend Paper Corp. mill will provide essential support for regional education and health care as well as the economy, according to information presented to the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
“These kinds of jobs are needed in order to supply our health care,” Team Jefferson chair Bill Wise said of the jobs he said will be created and sustained by the biomass project.
“We need to keep these high-paying jobs here to support our health care and education systems,” Wise told a chamber audience at the Port Townsend Elks Club.
“This is very important to us.”
The biomass project will preserve 300 current jobs and create an additional 20 for people who will be charged with moving the biomass — also called slash or hog fuel — from forests to the mill to burn to produce up to 25 megawatts of electricity, Wise said.
Both Port Townsend Paper Corp. and Nippon Paper Industries USA, which operates a paper mill in Port Angeles, want to expand their biomass boilers, using the slash-burning to produce steam and generate electricity, for which credits can be sold.
Port Townsend Paper Corp. plans a $55 million project, while Nippon’s $71 million upgrade of its biomass boiler would generate up to 20 megawatts of electrical power.
The Port Townsend project is the subject of an appeal to state agencies by environmental groups, which say burning wood waste for industrial uses increases air and water pollution and threatens the sustainability of ecosystems.
A similar appeal of Nippon’s project was turned down by the state Shorelines Hearings Board last month, allowing a Port Angeles city conditional use permit for the cogeneration project to stand.
Opponents of biomass said the technology hasn’t been proven safe and favor holding off on granting permits until new regulations are enacted.
Several opponents of the biomass project attended Monday’s chamber presentation but did not question Wise.
Aside from keeping and creating jobs Wise said the project will result in a lower level of emissions and produce electricity that will contribute to the local power grid.
Wise said the material used in the Port Townsend cogeneration plan will not have an adverse effect on forests; rather, it will allow land that would be covered by matter to be used for more constructive purposes.
“Wood waste that is not used in a biomass project either decays or is burned in the field where they do not generate electricity and there is less pollution control,” he said.
“Emissions are released untreated into the atmosphere, but with cogeneration wood waste is moved and burned in a pollution-controlled environment.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or [email protected]