Biomass Politics on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula

– by Josh Schlossberg, April 27, 2012, The Biomass Monitor

(Source: Arwyn Rice and Paul GottliebPeninsula Daily News)

Local politics are abuzz with biomass on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where Port Angeles and Port Townsend residents face two biomass incinerator proposals from Nippon Paper Industries and Port Townsend Paper Corp.

Over the last several weeks, the former Mayor of Port Townsend warned residents of the health impacts from burning biomass, and the Port Angeles and Sequim City Councils—Sequim is fifteen miles downwind of the proposed Port Angeles incinerator—canceled a previously scheduled public forum to discuss biomass concerns.

On March 16, former Port Townsend Mayor and retired pediatrician, Kees Kolff, voiced concerns with the health impacts of burning biomass to a group of 100 people. Kolff insisted that no new biomass facilities be built until the development of technology that would adequately filter the asthma-inducing particulate matter emitted from the smokestack.

On March 20, Port Angeles City Councilor Max Mania proposed that the Council open a public discussion on the health and environmental concerns raised by biomass opponents. On April 3, the Council chose not to pursue the biomass discussion and voted against co-hosting a public forum with the Sequim City Council, already scheduled for May 14.

On April 23, the Sequim City Council likewise agreed to cancel the forum, citing that Nippon Paper Industries had already received permits for the facility and that Sequim had no authority over the town of Port Angeles.

“The citizens of the area are largely ignorant of the effects of biomass burning,” said Maureen Wall, a biomass opponent living in Port Angeles. “My biggest concern is how to get questions, important questions, answered when there is only name calling, when citizens concerns are met with dismissive or personal attacks.”

“It looks like our city governments can’t cope when research on the impacts of burning biomass leapfrog ahead of rules, regulations and laws…especially where the influences of timber interests loom large,” said Diana Somerville, spokesperson for the seven groups that have filed suit against the Port Angeles incinerator and a member of the Healthy Air Coalition of Clallam County.

An online petition addressed to Port Angeles and Port Townsend city governments, as well as county and state governments, is being circulated by biomass opponents in hopes of enacting a “a moratorium on construction/operations of biomass incinerators/boilers.”

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