Tag Archives: eugene

[NEWS] Seneca Biomass Power Facility Wins Additional $1 Million Subsidy

– by Christian Wihtol, June 18, 2016, Register Guard

Biomass-Receiving-Station

Photo: senecasawmill.com

Seneca Sustainable ­Energy LLC, the company that operates a wood-burning power plant north of Eugene, has prevailed in its lawsuit against the Oregon ­Department of Energy, winning an extra $1 million ­taxpayer ­subsidy.

The state Department of Energy previously had issued Seneca a tax credit subsidy worth $10 million. Seneca had sued, arguing that under state rules it was due $11 million.

The case, in Lane County Circuit Court, was put on hold while another lawsuit on the same general topic, in relation to a new biogas plant in Linn County, was being litigated. The biogas plant owners, SIF Energy LLC, prevailed in the Oregon Court of Appeals in December, winning an additional subsidy of $444,000 for themselves. Based on that ruling, the Oregon Department of ­Energy decided to concede the ­Seneca case and award Seneca the additional $1 million subsidy it was seeking, the state said in a filing in the Seneca case.

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[NEWS] Dispute Over Seneca Biomass Property Tax Bill in Eugene, Oregon

– by Christian Wihtol, June 6, 2016, Register Guard

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Photo: Register Guard

Rising 100 feet tall, burning truck-load after truck-load of wood waste, and, in cold weather, belching plumes of white steam high into the air, the Seneca Sustainable Energy LLC power plant north of Eugene cuts an eye-catching profile.

But how much is the innovative 38-acre facility worth?

Seneca and government tax authorities have fought quietly in Oregon Tax Court over that question ever since the local Jones family built the wood-burning electricity plant and opened it in April 2011.

Given what’s at stake — potentially many millions of dollars in property taxes over the plant’s life — the sides are digging in and the disagreement may drag on for more years.

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[NEWS] Eugene, Oregon Pays Triple the Cost For Biomass Energy

– by Christian Wihtol, May 5, 2016, Register Guard

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Photo: Chris Pietsch/Register Guard

After refusing for nearly six years to disclose any part of its contract to buy power from the Seneca woodburning electricity plant north of Eugene, the Eugene Water & Electric Board has agreed to disclose most of the contract and pay The Register-Guard $70,000 for legal costs the paper incurred fighting for the release.

The settlement between the paper, EWEB and Seneca Sustainable Energy LLC, which is owned by the local Jones family, comes just before the dispute was to go to trial in Lane County Circuit Court.

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Oregon Energy Bill Includes Biomass Incentives

– by Hillary Borrud, February 26, 2016, East Oregonian

plant

Photo: biomassone.com

The latest version of an Oregon bill to double the state’s renewable energy mandate would also expand incentives to build and operate power plants that burn wood.

Lawmakers added a provision on biomass to the bill Thursday night, in an effort to gain support of state Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene, who was previously lukewarm on the legislation.

Biomass is politically popular in rural areas of the state and communities with timber mills where wood waste can be used as fuel. At the same time, some environmentalists have questioned whether biomass should qualify as renewable energy, and researchers have found burning wood can release more carbon than coal.

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More Logging and Biomass Burning Won’t Solve Job Woes

–  by Rob Handy, July 6, 2014, Register Guard

During my tenure as a Lane County commissioner, I watched Lane County’s timber harvest rise from 337 million board feet in 2009 to 590 million board feet in 2012, reported concisely by the state Department of Forestry. In spite of this huge surge, a 75 percent increase, I never witnessed the often-predicted surge in jobs or revenues.

What I did witness was a distinct increase in clear-cutting, especially in the forests closest to Eugene. That was accompanied by rural residents in Triangle Lake being contaminated from the aerial spraying of forest poisons and by the degrading of such public waters as Quartz Creek, a vital McKenzie River tributary.

I also noticed how increased burning of logging slash made the valley murky with smoke. Ironically, the Seneca biomass energy facility I contested, instead of reducing slash burning, has degraded our air quality further by increasing its allowable pollution!

Yet our sheriff and the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, an industry lobbying organization, say in their June 15 guest viewpoint that with increased logging, “Clean air and water are a given.”

Their column says, “A lower harvest means fewer jobs.” That claim — that jobs are connected to harvest levels — isn’t supported by the facts. The Oregon Department of Employment reported that 142,100 total nonfarm jobs in Lane County in 2009 declined to 141,800 jobs by 2012. During that same period, logging nearly doubled. Yet even wood products manufacturing jobs, reported at 3,300 in 2009, remained at 3,300 in 2012 in spite of the harvest surge.

Logging went way up, yet jobs went down. Why is there this disconnect between timber harvest and jobs?

A large part of the private timber harvest leaves Lane County, much of it ending up in Asia. Weyerhaeuser, the county’s largest private landowner, controls more forestland than the federal Bureau of Land Management. The timber giant, along with some other large industrial forest owners, is a major log exporter.

Could large increases in logging without increases in local employment be due to log exports? Why don’t our leaders research and publicly discuss this disconnect between increased logging and decreased employment?

Comparing harvest volumes with Oregon Department of Revenue figures shows a similar disconnect in timber harvest taxes. In 2011, Oregon’s private forests accounted for 77 percent of Oregon’s total timber harvest, with most of the volume coming from industry lands. Yet the private forest contributed only 11 percent to the total reported timber harvest revenues. Public lands accounted for 23 percent of the harvest, but paid nearly all of the collected revenues, a whopping 89 percent!

Why don’t our state and county leaders examine this disconnect as well? Inequitable property and harvest tax exemptions are being given without fair review to private forest owners — especially to large owners of more than 5,000 acres, who no longer have to pay a harvest “privilege” tax. The Revenue Department reports this one subsidy, granted in 1999, costs us nearly $60 million a year.

Given the entitled way in which the timber industry and its friends demand more logging, one would think they were big contributors to our economy. Yet the Department of Employment reports wood products manufacturing jobs constitute only 2 percent of Lane’s overall nonfarm employment. State economists show this industry’s contribution to Oregon’s gross domestic product being equally small, only 2 percent.

We won’t fairly and justly resolve the supposed “problems” of timber supply, jobs and revenues until the private forest is held just as accountable as the federal forest. To keep more logs, jobs and money at home, Lane’s large corporate forest owners need to be taxed for their fair share.

In private industry’s constant demand for more public timber, our rights of ownership have been overlooked just as is the collateral damage from industrial logging. Our more protected and still heavily timbered federal forest, so coveted by industry, belongs to all of us, including future generations. And in Oregon, beyond the forest industry’s locked gates, we the people own the water, fisheries, wildlife and clean air as well!

Let’s remind our leaders that corporate timber doesn’t directly vote them into office or pay their salaries. The federal logging increase they so narrowly pursue is not fair to the majority of us and, if granted, would serve mostly to benefit only a wealthy few.

Rob Handy, a Lane County commissioner from 2009 to 2013, prepared this essay with technical assistance from Our Forests, a nonprofit forest research institute not funded by timber harvesting.

Activists Shut Down Seneca Biomass Incinerator in Eugene, Oregon

– by Cascadia Forest Defenders, July 7, 2014, Forest Defense Now

Scores of activists with Cascadia Forest Defenders and Earth First! converged on the Seneca Jones biomass plant this morning to protest the company’s privatization of public lands in the Elliott State Forest and ongoing pollution in West Eugene.

Currently several people have locked themselves to equipment at the plant, effectively blocking the “truck dump” where biomass is loaded into the incinerator. A banner has been dropped off of a tower reading: “Seneca Jones: Privatizing the coast range, polluting West Eugene.”

The activists are bringing attention to Seneca Jones Timber’s role in privatizing the Elliott State Forest. This month Seneca closed on their purchase of 788 acres in the Elliott, called East Hakki Ridge. Co-owner of Seneca Kathy Jones recently expressed the company’s intention to clearcut East Hakki and replace it with Douglas fir plantation.

Cascadia Forest Defender Richard Haley commented, “However Kathy Jones paints it, her company is a bad neighbor everywhere it operates. Here in Eugene, Seneca pollutes. In the Elliott, Seneca clearcuts and puts up ‘no trespassing’ signs in pristine, never before logged forest. East Hakki is no longer a place where locals can go hunt, fish, hike, camp or watch birds. Now it is corporate property.”

Coos Bay citizen science group Coast Range Forest Watch documented Marbled Murrelet nesting behavior in East Hakki Ridge in May. The bird is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits actions that injure or kill threatened species–including destruction of habitat. A month after Marbled Murrelets were found in East Hakki, conservation law organizations filed to sue Seneca Jones in the event of logging in the timber sale. Murrelets were also found in two timber sales purchased by timber company Roseburg Forest Products. Another parcel is up for sale this fall, and the State Land Board is considering privatizing the entire forest.

Despite Seneca’s claim of being sustainable, the biomass plant failed its first EPA air pollution test in 2011 but still requested more state funds to offset its production costs. In spite of its high impact on local air quality, Seneca receives 10 million dollars in tax credits from the state of Oregon under the Business Energy Tax Credit Program.

“The plant has had a bad reputation in this community since its opening,” said West Eugene resident Matthew Hawks. “It’s marketing itself as a ‘green’ solution in my neighborhood, but is actually harming the environment around us, especially the air we breathe.”

The plant, which only employs 11 people, releases an estimated 17,900 pounds of air toxins into West Eugene Neighborhoods annually, in addition to the 73,000 pounds released each year from the mill itself. There are three schools within three miles of the Seneca biomass facility.

“While clearcutting and privatization in the Elliott State Forest is done in the name of public schools, this irresponsible company is taking millions of public dollars and impacting the health and safety of school children in their own neighborhood. It feels really twisted,” said Cascadia Forest Defender Cordelia Finley.

The Eugene-based Cascadia Forest Defenders carried out this action with activists from across the continent following an annual Earth First! camp-out in the woods of Southern Oregon, called the Earth First! Round River Rendezvous.