Category Archives: soil

[NEWS] California Biomass Company Ordered to Pay $4.2 Million for Dioxin in Ash

– May 5, 2017, Times Herald

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Photo: California Biomass Energy Alliance

A Yolo County biomass company was ordered Friday to pay a multi-million dollar penalty as result of civil settlement reached in an environmental protection action.

Woodland Biomass Power was sentenced by Yolo County Superior Court Judge Samuel McAdam to pay $4.22 million for penalties, costs and remediation.

The action was filed by district attorneys from Yolo, Solano and San Joaquin counties.

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[NEWS] County-by-County Variability of Bioenergy Crop Yields in the U.S.

– January 20, 2017, Phys.org

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Photo: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Using corn and soybeans as their testing ground, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised methods to peer into the mechanisms that modulate crop yield variability. They used statistical models to examine how climate variability impacts yields of these popular bioenergy crops at the county level. Among climate factors, the team showed that temperature is predominant in corn-growing counties, both by volume and percentage of production. Precipitation has a similar impact. The amount of energy from the sun, or radiation, has a much smaller effect USA-wide on both soybeans and corn.

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[NEWS] Is Wood a Green Source of Energy? Scientists Are Divided

– by Warren Cornwall, January 5, 2017, Science

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Drax Biomass (Daily Mail)

It took half a century for an acorn to grow into the 20-meter-tall oak tree standing here in a North Carolina hardwood forest near the banks of the Northeast Cape Fear River. But it takes just seconds to turn the oak into fuel for the furnace of a European power plant.

A logging machine—a cross between a tank and a one-armed crab—grabs the tree with a metal claw. With a screech, a spinning blade bites through the trunk. Ultimately, the thickest bits of this tree and hundreds of others from this forest will be sliced into lumber. But the limbs from large trees like this, along with entire small or crooked trees, go to a specialized mill to be squeezed into tiny wood pellets. Shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, they will likely end up fueling a giant power plant in the United Kingdom that supplies nearly 10% of the country’s electricity.

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[AUDIO] Cellulosic Biofuels, Food Security and Land Rights (Kelly Stone, ActionAid USA)

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD AUDIO

Cellulosic Biofuels, Food Security and Land Rights 

On December 15 we spoke with Kelly Stone, Policy Analyst for ActionAid USA, who discusses a new cellulosic biofuels paper along with concerns related to food security and land rights.

 

[NEWS] Dead Trees Mean New Life for Fresno, California Biomass Facility

– by Marc Benjamin, November 28, 2016, Fresno Bee

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Photo: John Walker / Fresno Bee

Dead trees will continue being turned into electricity near Fresno for another five years after a biomass plant in Malaga got a contract to supply Southern California Edison.

The contract ends concerns that the facility, which employs 25 workers and has a $3.5 million annual payroll, could close soon. The plant’s contract was extended twice this year because of dead trees cut down in the Sierra.

The 24-megawatt plant was supposed to close Dec. 31 without a new contract. Utilities no longer were going to pay for electricity generation from biomass plants because the fixed price that supported the plants was expiring.

Biomass plants in Delano, Mendota, Dinuba, Terra Bella and Firebaugh have closed in recent years because of expired power purchasing agreements.

READ MORE at Fresno Bee

November ISSUE OF THE BIOMASS MONITOR: Should We Log Burned Forests for Biomass Energy?

Should We Log Burned Forests for Biomass Energy? [November 2016]

Inside this issue:

Forest Service Studies Soil Impacts of Bioenergy Logging

Forest Biomass Utilization Combatting Catastrophic Wildfires

The Disconnect Between Myth and Reality in the Rim Fire

Subscribe to free, monthly email issues of The Biomass Monitor.

[EXCLUSIVE] Forest Service Studies Soil Impacts of Bioenergy Logging

– by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

A recent study from the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Rocky Mountain Research Station investigates the potential impacts on forest productivity from logging for biomass energy. While the study focuses primarily on the Northern Rockies region—where only a handful of small combined heat and power and biomass heating facilities operate—many of the findings may be applied to western forests.

The study, Impact of Biomass Harvesting on Forest Soil Productivity in the Northern Rocky Mountains, by Woongsoon Jang and Christopher Keyes from the University of Montana, and Deborah Page-Dumroese with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho, assesses one of the main environmental concerns surrounding an expansion of bioenergy, the impact on forest soil productivity.

USFS defines forest productivity as the “integration of all environmental factors encompassing soil productivity, climate, topography, geology, vegetation, and the history of natural disturbances and anthropogenic interventions.” Ultimately, the question is whether logging for bioenergy may impair future forest growth.

Logging for bioenergy involves removing more organic matter from the forest than conventional logging for lumber alone. The practice of whole-tree logging extracts not just merchantable tree trunks for lumber, but also treetops, branches, and other logging byproducts, and has a “substantial impact on live vegetation,” according to study authors.

Though whole tree logging is not typically employed in the western U.S. forests, the authors predict that forests will “likely be managed more intensively in the future,” in part for biomass energy.

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[OPINION] The Disconnect Between Myth and Reality in the Rim Fire

[Read the opposing view to this opinion piece, “Forest Biomass Utilization Combatting Catastrophic Wildfires,” by Julia Levin, Bioenergy Association of California & Tad Mason, Registered Professional Forester]

– by Chad Hanson, Research Ecologist, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute

Large fires in the western U.S. have become the stuff of myth in recent years, with the public dialogue surrounding such fires now taking on the character of fish tales. Everything gets bigger, more dramatic, and more extreme with each telling, often resulting in an ever-widening gap between fact and fiction. There is perhaps no fire for which this is more true than the 257,000-acre Rim fire of 2013 in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

Demonized by the Forest Service and the timber industry’s allies in Congress as a “moonscape,” where the fire burned so intensely that it “sterilized” the soil, the impression was created in the popular imagination of a landscape overwhelmingly dominated by high-intensity fire effects in the Rim fire, where every tree was killed and little or nothing would grow in the future. One local logging industry advocate claimed, without any basis in evidence, that the Rim fire moved so fast that deer could not outrun it and birds could not fly fast enough to escape. All of these claims were repeatedly reported in the news coverage as if they were fact. In the context of this narrative, pro-logging members of Congress and the timber industry pushed for a massive post-fire logging program on National Forest lands, and the U.S. Forest Service complied.

But it is now more than three years after the Rim fire, and the smoke has long since cleared, so what is the truth?

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[OPINION] Forest Biomass Utilization Combatting Catastrophic Wildfires

[Read the opposing view to this opinion piece, “The Disconnect Between Myth and Reality in the Rim Fire,” by Chad Hanson, John Muir Project]

– by Julia Levin, Executive Director, Bioenergy Association of California & Tad Mason, Registered Professional Forester

California’s 2013 Rim Fire burned more than a quarter million acres; early estimates suggest that damage to the environment and property values could reach $1.8 billion. It destroyed wildlife habitat, released millions of tons of carbon emissions, and damaged key watersheds.

Sadly, catastrophic wildfires like the Rim Fire are increasing in frequency throughout the inland West. Land managers are very focused on proactive strategies to address the unnatural buildup of forest biomass. Forest thinning and hazardous fuels removal are important strategies to return forest landscapes to a healthier and more fire resilient condition. Utilization of this excess forest biomass as a feedstock for renewable power generation can provide a market-based solution that serves as an alternative to current biomass disposal techniques such as piling and burning or leaving biomass material on site.

Western forests are suffering from the combined impacts of past fire suppression efforts, development, and climate change, which is causing higher temperatures, reduced snow pack, invasive species and more intense weather events that trigger wildfires. Together, these factors are causing a perfect storm of weakened, combustible forests that lead to catastrophic wildfires. California has lost more acres to wildfire in the past five years than in the previous seventy years combined. In 2015 alone, California lost an area larger than the state of Rhode Island to wildfire. Other western states tell a similar story.

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October Issue of The Biomass Monitor: Vermont a Trailblazer for Biomass Heat

Vermont a Trailblazer for Biomass Heat [October 2016]

Inside this issue:

The Future of Biomass Energy in Vermont 

Helping Low-Income Vermonters Heat With Wood

Montpelier, VT’s Biomass Heating Facility Nothing to Celebrate

Subscribe to free, monthly email issues of The Biomass Monitor.

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