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Officials oppose Biomass air permit

Local government and economic leaders reaffirmed their lack of support Thursday for a wood-fired power plant near South Point.

Saturday, June 16, 2001

Local government and economic leaders reaffirmed their lack of support Thursday for a wood-fired power plant near South Point.

The Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, the Lawrence County Commission and the Village of South Point went on record at the Ohio EPA’s official air permit hearing, opposing the project by Biomass Energy LLC.

The company’s consulting engineer, investment bankers and attorney attended the meeting, but did not speak during the hearing.

Biomass seeks an air permit to install seven 175 million BTU per hour wood-fired boilers and natural gas fired driers to prepare raw wood as fuel, the Ohio EPA said at an informational session prior to the hearing.

The company will use existing facilities at the former South Point Ethanol site, upgrading boilers and installing some new equipment, the EPA said.

During a question and answer period, South Point Mayor Bill Gaskin said villagers remain concerned about fog and smog, having suffered with such problems from previous plants.

The EPA said the Biomass project is a different facility than Allied Chemical from the 1970s that had air problems.

Gaskin and village council members have already sent letters to senators and state officials, joining the Chamber of Commerce and county leaders in similar moves, objecting to Biomass’s plans.

There’s still a concern about wood ash, dust or problems with dirty air settling over South Point, Gaskin said.

Misty Parsons, environmental specialist with the Division of Air Pollution Control, said that based on the air permit application and the type of facility, the EPA wouldn’t expect to see that problem but if there are problems, local officials can contact the Portsmouth Local Air Agency.

The LEDC made known their concern that although the LEDC has dealt with Biomass Group LLC, the air permit application lists Biomass Energy LLC as the applicant.

The EPA also discussed the company’s proposal to install continuous emission monitors and the required stack emissions testing.

EPA also watches over initial testing and makes routine inspections, although it cannot guarantee they will be annual, officials said.

During the official hearing, during which the EPA cannot comment, Thomas Klein told the EPA

that the LEDC was unhappy with past business dealings with Biomass and concerned about its impact to the 500 acres of industrial park land surrounding the site.

Mark McCown, South Point solicitor, registered the village’s concerns about emissions and other problems.

"While 191 tons per year (of particulate matter) may not be as great as in other permits, it is a great concern for those who breathe that air and will have to deal with the particulate matter," McCown said.

And, according to Biomass’s business plans, about 90 trucks a day are scheduled to bring wood to the facility, which is cause for road safety concerns, he said.

Commissioner Jason Stephens said the county has concerns about the company meeting regulations because – even though the situation has been corrected recently – they failed to pay taxes and maintain their property.

The county wants jobs and growth in communities but there are too many questions by residents to support the project, Stephens said.

Those representing Biomass said they did not speak at the hearing because the air permit stands on its own, they said.

"The community will be pleased," attorney Anthony Guiliani said. "We understand the concern We’re here to say this is not the 70s."

The $65 million investment will meet EPA requirements, roads will be paved, the company is willing to install state of the art emission controls and it’s green energy – something being looked at across the country, Guiliani said, adding that he was disappointed that Biomass’s past history was brought up at the hearing.