Every year 24,000 people die prematurely because of pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Every year 38,000 heart attacks occur because of pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Every year 12,000 hospital admissions and 550,000 people suffering asthma attacks result from power plant pollution.
Every year, coal-fired power plants release 48 tons of mercury nationwide.
Power plants release over 40% of total U.S. C02 emissions, a primary contributor to global warming...
...and yet the coal industry wants you to believe that building more coal fired power plants in Michigan is a good idea!
...and now utilities want to burn (as biomass) our trees that capture and store harmful carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we need to live
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Good friends of Northern Michigan - Robynn James | READ THIS LETTER AND LEARN WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
If you're reading this it's because I know you love Northern Michigan and do not want to see it meet with the fate of communities featured in the film Gasland. Some of you know that recently I've been able to learn from inside sources some critical information on the activities of Chesapeake Energy and Halliburton in Kalkaska County. If we fail to act now to stop the onslaught of Halliburton-developed hydraulic fracturing the entire Northern Michigan water table, and possibly even the Great Lakes, face peril. CLICK HERE
Use hydropower instead of biomass - Douglas Burwell
To show how hydroelectric power can help meet the State’s 10% renewable energy requirement for 2015 without biomass, one need only look at the Renewable Energy Plan for Lansing Board of Water and Light, which is a publicly owned utility. They purchase or own hydropower capacity of 11,700 megawatt hours from three dams, which is identical to the best estimate of about 12,000 megawatt hours for the three Boardman River dams. The Moores Park Hydro owned by Lansing, was rehabilitated and brought back into service in March 2008. Other sources of renewable energy for Lansing include landfill energy and a small solar array. I recently performed an analysis of how many trees would be saved if hydropower from the Boardman River dams were to replace the amount of wood chips necessary to produce the same amount of electricity. I came up with about 18,200 tons per year (49.9 tons per day). Using conversion data from the Friends of the Jordan River, this works out to about 425 acres per year (think of it as more than ten 40-acre plots.) This is about two-thirds of a square mile per year. Those figures are either large or small depending on whose back yard it is. What bothers me most is that I try to be a responsible citizen and recycle paper while buying recycled products. With a biomass plant, it is the same as going outside and chopping down a small tree every time I turn on the oven, or burning a branch when I need some light. Ben Franklin would call it being penny wise and pound foolish. I read that during the Great Depression people needed to revert to chopping down trees to heat their houses and cook their meals, but during the great advances of the 20th century who would have guessed we would now be moving backwards to a 19th century dependency on wood for energy? Although I am not crazy about coal, I would much rather deplete our coal reserves than deplete our topsoil that future generations will need. With modern smokestack scrubber technology, coal is just another carbon fuel, except that it does not cause ocean spills nor does it cause money to go to countries that hate us. One source of frustration at board meetings of Traverse City Light and Power is when I hear a board member state that an overwhelming majority of their ratepayers favor renewable energy. Of course they (we) do! But when we are asked that question, I doubt if most of us consider biomass as renewable. The original old growth forest in this area would require hundreds of years to replicate, which will never happen if we keep cutting it down. And the non-renewable nutrients removed from the topsoil are forever lost, unlike the normal decay of dead wood. If biomass were not legally defined as renewable for the purpose of meeting the state renewable energy law, not a single utility would want it.
Dear Mayor Bzdok - Lee Sprague, LRBOI Councilman Outlying District Representative
Please understand that I did not question why you were not doing something for TC. I assured the audience that you were equally concerned about the TC residents, and that you had taken an oath of office to protect the health and welfare of your constituents, something you did not have to take with our Tribe the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI). In your email response, you reference an air monitor around an extant biomass plant, whose site is currently unknown. "I completely agree that ambient PM concentrations should be monitored around any local biomass plant." Is your position that TC not install ozone and pm2.5 monitors to establish a baseline for these health threatening emissions before any biomass plant, or that we install them after the unknown location of a biomass plant has been conjured. We can both agree that of the two options, air monitors before a biomass plant is built, or air monitors after a biomass plant is built, one of them is more protective of Traverse City residents health and welfare. I also have constituents in Traverse City that I represent, so as political leaders we share that. I have the name of the contractors who installed the air monitors for our Tribe, they are at least two magnitudes cheaper than the consultants and staff time spent by TCL&P to date, let alone the time spent by your residents doing the hard work TCL&P should have done. To date, I have not seen any health impact analysis by TCL&P. Either they did not conduct the health impacts of biomass plants, or they have failed to disclose the health impacts of biomass plants. In either case, this has potential implications to consider before as you assess the viability of a biomass plant. However I consider myelf to by the grateful recipient of the health impacts of biomass that your residents have produced. I will certainly use the health information in advocating for my constituents health and welfare who live in your great city.
Response from Traverse City Mayor Chris Bzdok: I completely agree that ambient PM concentrations should be monitored around any local biomass plant. Dr. Shea and I have discussed that, and I believe we can persuade the utility to do this as a nonnegotiable item.
J&E Editor's Response: We need baseline air quality monitoring data prior to the construction of any power generating facility. We need to know our ambient air quality now, in addition to in the future. Please contact the Grand Traverse County Health Department and insist that you want air quality monitors in Traverse City that measure NOx (smog), SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide), as well as PM10 and PM2.5 (Particulate Matter). FREE phone call (877) 321-7070
I know as much as I need to know about fine particulates from biomass burning - Ned Ford
Particulate matter kills more people in this nation than any other avoidable cause except guns and tobacco. My death count stands between 100,000 and 120,000 per year, but it's hard to be sure how much of that is due to diesel and how much is because of energy generation. As far as I'm concerned, no old growth trees should ever be cut again, but we don't deal with that in Michigan because there is virtually no old growth. The U.S. forest service and good sustainable advocacy agree that the sustainable harvest from most forest lands is about 1.5 cords per acre per year, or about 2.5% of the volume. From my perspective it doesn't matter if they clearcut 2.5% of the acreage or thin the whole or something in between. I advocate utility efficiency programs because they are causing more carbon reductions than any other strategy, and for far less money, and can be scaled up a whole lot from where they are. People who want to work on things that individuals can do have my gratitude, but I'm only one person and I want to be as effective as possible, so I work on utility efficiency programs.
The flim flam man and biomass - Dr. John W. Richter
Recently we have seen a rash of proposals to build wood burning biomass electric plants in Michigan. Huge government subsidies are being handed out to build these plants under the guise of being carbon neutral and renewable, and at the expense of developing truly green technology such as wind and solar. Far from being "green" energy, wood burning biomass plants emit 1.5 times as much CO2 as coal plants. Each megawatt of power requires 13,000 tons of green wood each year, presenting a dangerous and unsustainable use of our forests. Citizens groups and coalitions have formed in several states to fight the proliferation of these wood burners. The state of Massachusetts has temporarily banned the building of new plants. You are invited to attend a meeting the Friends of the Jordan will be hosting on Tuesday, June 15, at 7:00 PM at the Watershed Center in East Jordan, to discuss what we can do to protect our forests and stop these tree burning plants in Michigan. Below and attached is a fact sheet on this issue, and a letter to Governor Granholm, which can be printed out and sent. For more information, please visit our website at www.friendsofthejordan.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see you at this meeting. Together we can make a difference.
Schools Air Toxics Monitoring - William D. Lewis Presque Isle MI
Due to an industrial waste incinerator in Alpena, Michigan with a rather tarnished record, I would think that an Alpena school would be on the list of schools being monitored for air quality. Has any testing been done on Alpena's schoolgrounds? Can an Alpena school be added to the list?
Wake Up and Smell the Biomass - John Chicoine
The voters of unambiguously answered the question- "Who wants their kids to inhale contaminated sewage water?" 85% voted to protect public health. Even more importantly, the voters saw this vote as a referendum on the biomass question, not just sewage water use. All 3 biomass questions failed by huge margins. Biomass Is Dead In Greenfield. Game Over. The people of Greenfield are telling Matt Wolfe to get lost. He lied about using contaminated sewage effluent by saying that "only 100% pure water vapor" would be discharged from the cooling towers. He lies about biomass being carbon neutral, green energy. He is still lying on his web site by claiming that he is building a "combined heat and power (CHP) plant" that will produce "carbon-neutral electricity, steam, and hot water". He is in fact proposing to build an old-fashioned, electricity-generating only, dirty biomass incinerator with the ability to burn a ton a minute of anything (like trash, plastic, lead-painted wood, asphalt shingles, pressure-treated wood, etc.). How insane is that? Over 3,300 people have told him loud and clear, it will not be happening in Greenfield. The message to Matt Wolfe is -Get Out Of Town! You have been shown the door. Now don't get your tail stuck on your way back to the rock you slithered out from under. Greenfield won't buy your Green-washing. The people do support real Green Energy alternatives. But we don't support dirty biomass incinerators that will pollute our air, destroy our forests, and release 50% more carbon dioxide than a coal-fired power plant producing the same amount of energy. You tried to con us. You failed. Now, Get Lost!
Profit from landfills - Gerald Jehle Beulah
Traverse City Light & Power Executive Director Ed Rice was quoted in the May 27 Record-Eagle as saying, "Biomass is as clean as we are going to get with any kind of generating plant." Mr. Rice hasn't done his homework. There are a host of waste to energy plants already in operation around the world and even in Byron City that produce energy derived in one way or another from landfill waste with no harmful emissions. All it takes is a few minutes on the Web to discover the multiple alternative options open to Light & Power. Why haven't they looked? "It would cost too much" doesn't cut it. Just think: We can produce really clean power and either get rid of the landfills or profit from them.
Recognition for Budros - Monica Evans
Once again, the Record Eagle is spot-on regarding Traverse City Light & Power's biomass plans. Those of us waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to put a halt to the Parsons Road site knew it was just a matter of time. Did Light & Power seriously think building the plant on Parsons Road would fly (no pun intended)? Now there is a blanket of secrecy over their next best site. One only needs to look at the city — remember that the plant will require the withdrawal of huge volumes of water — to take a pretty good guess at the possible sites. No matter where, people will continue to adamantly oppose this near-sighted plan. If Light & Power thinks we are going to go away, it is sadly mistaken. The unsung hero in this whole disaster is city Commissioner Barbara Budros, who has had the insight, intelligence and strength to say "no" from the very beginning. Commissioner Budros has stood alone throughout this entire fiasco, opposing Light & Power's plan to burn our forests, pollute our air, water and soil, and has served the people of Traverse City with honor and integrity. Giving her the recognition she deserves is long overdue.
Drop further plans - Bill Fagan Traverse City
As a physics and chemistry educator of 32 years who also has a degree in electrical engineering as well as some experience in power generation, I have spoken to several members of the board and the executive director of Traverse City Light & Power concerning the lack of public education about the proposed biomass power-generation plant. However, after trying to keep an open mind and researching the issue, I am firmly convinced that Light & Power must drop any further plans for a biomass plant and explore other, more environmentally friendly methods of power generation for Traverse City. I agree that we need some form of local, renewable power generation; however, any advantages of biomass are overshadowed by the negative environmental, health and aesthetic impacts it would have on all of citizens of the greater Traverse City area.
Editorial: Time to look at options
So how do you misplace a $30 million biomass plant?
Not misplace like forgetting where you put it, of course, but in a more basic way: How, after months of planning and public hearings, did Traverse City Light & Power say its preferred site for a biomass plant was a place where it apparently can't be built? And why did uility officials give assurances that the site near Cherry Capital Airport was just fine when they apparently didn't know whether it was or not? Spin? Telling people what they wanted to hear? "You couldn't pick a worse location," Hubbard said. Before Light & Power spends one more dime on a new campaign to sell a new biomass site, it must do what should have been done first — take an honest and long look at other power alternatives, starting with the dams on the Boardman River.
Cart before the horse - Truda Fagan
Here's a new thought on the biomass controversy: Why does our Traverse City Light & Power board continue to push for a biomass plant despite strong community opposition? Somehow we seem to have gotten the cart before the horse, i.e., we the people seem to be stuck with pulling the cart while dragging the horse, TCL&P, behind. Why isn't the power plant out in front leading citizens away from 19th century technologies that have been determined to be detrimental to both the people and to nature, and into the 21st century with cleaner, sustainable methods of power generation. Is this too much to ask of Light & Power?
Insanity - David Downer
First they sold us the $7.8 million septage-treatment plant that can't sustain itself financially. Then they sold us the $1.4 million Boardman River Dam Study (charade). It was a done deal: they wanted the dams removed. Any public input that suggested repairing and reactivating the dams was rejected. Traverse City Light & Power made it clear they were not interested in hydroelectric power generation. Before the study was even completed they completely drained Boardman Pond and partially drained Brown Bridge Pond and destroyed their adjacent wetlands. All the local environmental groups were deafeningly silent. It is estimated that it will cost $30 million to remove the dams and only a fraction of that amount to reactivate them. Now they want to sell us a $30 million biomass plant. Their public-input process was a joke. They tell us that pollution from such a plant is minimal. However, they don't tell us how much pollution will be caused by the many thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, gasoline and oil, (fossil fuels) that will be burned collecting, processing and transporting this fuel. We have allowed the patients to take over the asylum. But maybe we get what we deserve.
What next? - Dennis Bean-Larson
I just heard that Traverse City Light & Power will have to find another location for the bio-mass plant because the currently proposed site will interfere with the sight-lines for a new control tower at the Cherry Capital Airport. Since it’s apparent that the board of directors of TCL&P have pretty much decided that a biomass plant is in our future, one has to wonder what other important facts they’ve failed to properly consider?
New scientific information regarding air pollution with relevance to biomass incinerators - Dr. Laura Shea
I have sent you previous correspondence regarding my concerns of the adverse health impact and wanted to keep you apprised of some very recent landmark developments with respect to particulate matter air pollution. There was a scientific position statement published last week in a prominent medical journal summarizing the health impact of particulate matter air pollution and asserting new health care recommendations based upon the recent research. As a result of this article and the forthcoming recommendations, members of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the American Heart Association were on Capitol Hill last week reviewing this material with lawmakers in a Congressional briefing. I suspect this information will affect the regulation of clean air as well as public health recommendations to reduce air pollution exposure. Here is a link for lay persons describing this new information for your review. Air Pollution Increases Heart Attack, Stroke Risk A few new strong position points are being made by the American Heart Association in this publication...
Thanks but no thanks - Judy Childs
Regarding the biomass debacle: The citizens of Traverse City (supposedly) shared their views with Traverse City Light & Power. The biomass plant was then approved by Light & Power's board (shocker). Light & Power sited the plant on the city's far eastern border, shared with East Bay Township. If Traverse City wants a biomass plant, put it where it primarily will impact Traverse City residents, not East Bay residents — who were not "surveyed." This is a dirty trick. East Bay citizens demand a chance to accept/decline the messy, noisy, polluting plant. Biomass plant emissions exist. Their impact upon human health is unclear. Thanks for thinking of us, Light & Power, but no thanks.
A waste of money - Dennis Wood
What a waste of our taxpayer money. 1) Engineering blunder of the septage plant. 2) The biomass wood-burning plant that no one wants except our city officials. Why can't our city officials do something worthwhile for our residents, like spray for the gypsy moths that we really need. We again this year are being infested by these nasty things on the eastern side of town.
Lambs to the slaughter - Joel Secrist
It disappoints me that there are those who think the Traverse City Light & Power biomass proposal is the solution to long-term energy needs. Based on statements from people in Cadillac who know first-hand, and have experienced the effects of ash residue from their local biomass plant on their homes, cars and lives, it’s ridiculous to think that the same won’t happen here in Traverse City. Depending on the prevailing wind, the (formerly) proposed site would have affected schools (TBA Career Tech Center and Traverse City High School), a hospital (Munson), neighborhoods, businesses who depend on tourism, our beautiful bays, our State Park, possibly all of Traverse City, East Bay Township, and the very air that we all breath. Former Texas Governor John Connelly once said, “The American people are like sheep. You can lead them wherever you want them to go.” Traverse City Light & Power is leading us like “lambs to slaughter.” Why aren’t our leaders moving in a more environment friendly direction like wind and/or solar solutions? Why invest all that money in a plan where the resources will eventually be depleted? We will never run out of wind and sun. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Why ruin it? I just don’t understand.
Seek new power options - Maureen (Mo) Charbonneau
Winston Churchill said, “We are shaping the world faster than we can change ourselves, and we are applying to the present the habits of the past.” One of our great challenges is to recognize habitual mind-sets and directions that no longer apply to today’s world. On May 21 the Michigan DNRE denied Wolverine Power’s air quality permit for their proposed coal plant in Rogers City. A study done by the MPSC supported an earlier study done by T.R. Rose Associates: rates would have gone up by 59.2% - an additional $77 a month for the average residential customer. What is needed now is the ability of all parties to come to the table and examine other options, including natural gas, wind and solar. We need to leverage state and federal resources to support energy efficiency improvements for members. We need to identify and institute best practices for today’s cooperatives, including honest communication and open records. As a candidate for Cherryland power company’s Board of Directors, I’m asking you to vote – if you want change. Last year 1,700 Cherryland members voted out of 34,000 total. I bring strong business experience with an MBA and a commitment to be part of the solution. We can be respectful of the past without being limited by it. There are two ways to vote: 1. Send in your ballot from the May issue of Country Lines magazine; 2. Attend the annual meeting on June 16 and vote in person.
Head in the sand - Gary Klinga
Typical of those individuals persisting in their head-in-the-sand state of denial about climate change is their failure to see the big picture. Clearly, it would be a greater crime to avoid the consequences of global warming than to keep the enormity of such news about the risk to the planet’s future from our children and grandchildren. After all, it’s their world they’ll be inheriting. As far as labeling environmentalists (scientists too?) as Marxists, I suppose valid journalism is to be found at Faux News with the likes of O’Reilly, Beck and Hannity. Really. As far as claiming that no other newspapers out there are reporting acidification of our lakes and oceans, what newspapers is Mr. Baird referring to --The Washington Post or The New York Times? As recently as April 26, 2010, the New York Times reported on the alarming rise of CO2 and its impact on the acidification of our oceans. And finally, what’s wrong with electric cars? It’s a no-brainer that we have to wean off petroleum. Just look at the disaster in the Gulf. To the gainsayers I say: “Please get your head out of the sand and come up for air. We all have a responsibility to protect our planet and its precious resources. Tread lightly.”
Write a letter - Doug Downer • TC native
Dear citizens of Traverse City: Burning our forests for electricity is a foolish and unsustainable endeavor and you know it. You can feel it. It has already started locally with a large wood burning plant in the Cadillac area. More are proposed in Mancelona, Grayling and Manistee. All of these plants' “50 to 75 mile” radii intersect in Grand Traverse County. Already, truckloads of wood are coming from Kalkaska and Grand Traverse to feed the huge plant in the Cadillac area. Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP) has shown how it’s proposed consumption is sustainable. The problem is that TCLP does not operate in a vacuum. All of these plants will compete for our forests, both public and private. The quality of our air and water in Northern Michigan is what makes it “feel different” than downstate. Burning our forests for electricity will change that. If you like how Lansing, Flint and Midland “feel,” just go ahead and do nothing! As a Garfield Township resident I don’t have the voting influence that the citizens of Traverse City do. Citizens of Traverse City, we need you to speak up! You have a direct influence on the city commissioners and they have a direct influence on TCLP. Write a letter, a hand-written letter to your city commissioners. Then attend the city commission meetings. Let your local representatives know your opinion on this issue. You can make a difference.
Dear Traverse City Commissioners and City Manager - Dr. Laura Shea
I have had email correspondence with Jim Carruthers sharing my concerns over the health impact of reduced air quality with biomass burning/incineration. His response was to request from me more information regarding the health impact of the specific proposed gasification plant. In order to interpret current scientific research of adverse health effects for you, it would help if I knew specific emissions data. I am told that specific emissions data will not be available until after the plant is built. Therefore, I have done research find these answers. Below is a summation of the emissions of a staged incineration process (gasification plant) for Wood biomass burning:
Biomass & burning rubber - Rick Hoag
I have been watching the news about the biomass plant that TCLP is planning to build. I worked in a biomass plant for 11 years and there are some real drawbacks to such a plant. Burning strictly wood is fairly easy on the environment, due to modern pollution controls mandated by the DEQ. The problem is, after a few years the plant can apply for a variance to burn TDF, which is tire-derived fuel. The plant owners like it because of the high BTU content of tires. It helps to stabilize the burn in the boiler. The problem is, the DEQ does not require the plant to install any additional pollution controls for the tires being burned. Every biomass plant in Northern Michigan is permitted to burn TDF at a rate of at least 5% by volume. Ask the neighbors near these plants what they think of biomass/TDF power plants. The response will not be a positive one. Go to Grayling, Hillman, Cadillac and Lincoln. Ask the locals. I would not like to see one here, even though I could most likely land a job which pays well. I know the business inside and out.
Wildlife holocaust - Chuck Wattson
The biomass plan of TCLP deserves a ‘no’ vote from every sensible citizen in the universe. This is as ridiculous as humans get. The forest is full of dead trees, branches, moss, leaves, roots from fallen trees -- all providing habitat and livelihood for every animal that lives in the woods. How are animals supposed to survive a Michigan winter with no place to hibernate, get out of the cold, store food, and hide from predators? The simple answer is, “they won’t survive, they will be eliminated,” or be the scrawniest animals imaginable. Every animal you can think of needs this so-called biomass to survive. Bears hibernate under fallen logs; they dig burrows under the trees to sleep and protect themselves and their young from 30 degrees-below weather and three feet of snow, slush and winter rain. Many other animals do the same: wolves, fox, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, porcupines and squirrels all use biomass in some way. Do you realize the monstrous equipment that they will use to vacuum and gut the forest? It won’t be pretty and it won’t be quiet.
Prevent forest fires - Bill Hansen
Remember the slogan, "Only you can prevent forest fires?" We live in the midst of some of the most beautiful forests in America. Photos from the 1800s, however, show thousands of acres of cut-over ugliness from which our forests are still recovering today. Yet now, for a second time in our short history, we want to remove trees from thousands of acres of forests, this time to burn them for fuel in biomass plants. Burning trees to generate electricity is inefficient, does little to reduce CO2 and other pollutants, endangers our health and is not truly renewable. (We can replant trees, but it takes decades for nature to restore a forest ecosystem.) Furthermore, population growth will eventually exhaust the ability of forests to keep up with our appetite for power. Biomass is at best a temporary resource; in the long run it is unsustainable. If you have been swayed by those who would "farm" our forests like corn fields to suit the needs of the moment, ask yourself: Should we have to take our grandchildren to a museum to see what a natural forest looked like? Remember, only you can prevent forest fires. Oppose biomass.
Maintain the dams - Jay Gearhart
Neil Haugen's April 15 letter just makes too much common sense. The dams are there; they've been there for 100 years, and they produced hydroelectric power for years. Traverse City Light & Power at the time, up until they let them rot, sold the power for less than half of what they would be selling it for now. Light & Power would have turned a profit if they had managed them correctly. Charles Petersen says he can fix and operate the dams at a profit at no cost to us peons. How can anyone object to the cleanest power available at no cost to the public, not to mention the cost of the dam removal and what about the folks who live on what were once the backwaters? Now they are living on a mud hole. The wind turbine folks have one turbine that sat idle for months because of the cost of repairs. When it does run it produces such a slight amount that it's laughable. Please don't let the dams be removed to satisfy a few. There is no living person who was around when the rivers ran free, so what would it look like? Go hydro.
Gretna Florida Pro-biomass City Commissioners Overthrown - James Maloy
Florida—The two Anti-Biomass candidates that we endorsed and supported to oppose the City Commission who brought a BioMess Burner to our community have won the election this evening. Dr. Neil Seldman will be here in our community on Thursday and Friday, and we will put Gadsden County and State of Florida politicians on notice that the Citizens will not stand for Incineration as a means to create energy or economic development. [J&E Editor: It has been brought to our attention that "Michigan Citizens for the Economy, Environment, and Energy" has been monitoring the position of Michigan elected officials toward biomass, and will be working diligently to replace dirty energy (coal and biomass) politicians with clean energy candidates.]
Biomass & air pollution - Laura Shea, MD • Brookside Family Medicine
As a physician residing and caring for patients in the Traverse City area, I am deeply concerned about the potential health impact of a biomass plant in our region. Known gaseous byproducts of burning biomass fuels are carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene and other known toxic and cancer causing chemicals. In addition, the ash residue of biomass emissions has an adverse health impact on human lungs and particularly those individuals with chronic lung disease such as asthma or emphysema. Let us learn from other societies who have implemented biomass energy and what has resulted in the environment in those regions; for example, South Asia. The “Asian Brown Cloud” is a layer of air pollution that extends for miles in the sky that covers South Asia. The contents of this have been studied and have been scientifically proven to have been largely a result of biomass energy. A health study performed in 2002 indicated that nearly 2 million people die each year in India alone due to the health implications of this brown cloud. We have already polluted our Great Lakes waters which has resulted in the current fish consumption health advisory recommendation that pregnant women and women of childbearing age not consume more than two fish meals per month. This is due to the build-up of mercury and other biological neurotoxins which are found in fish which become concentrated in fatty tissue such as breast milk and the brains of infants. Let us not contaminate the air we breathe in addition to the water that we drink in this lovely region of our country. Let us learn from other societies who have implemented biomass energy and make a smarter, cleaner choice for renewable energy in this magical Northern Michigan community that we are fortunate to live in.
Not a fact of life - Martin Chapo
Isn't it ironic that after we have fought for years to rid our public places of the airborne carcinogens that smokers spew into our commonly shared air we allow our public utilities to burn tons of "biomass" daily in our neighborhood? Burning 275 tons of anything per day does harm our environment. Regardless of issues cited like money saved, jobs created, people get used to it, the soot covering ... airborne pollutants are harmful. Has anyone studied the health consequence of living under the biomass plume with as much zeal as those who want to save money on their electric bills? Cadillac's mayor said after 10 years the complaints have stopped ... "it is a fact of life here." I live in Cadillac and can see the constant plume of smoke that the plant delivers to the neighborhoods. Don't let this become a "fact of life" for your beautiful community.
Biomass: no one in favor - Charles Baumann
Just read "Biodebate" (4/12) by Anne Stanton. Excellent article, very informative. Regarding the cost of biomass, we are currently paying 5.0 cents/kWh for coal power from contracts signed in the 1980s. The way I read this, we will be paying the current rate for wood biomass of 10.6 cents/kWh. That’s double what I am paying now. It was brought out by Traverse City Light & Power that Finland and Sweden have biomass plants and are doing well. Yet, what was brought out by "Biodebate" was that Scandinavia can no longer provide the wood from their own forests, so they are purchasing wood from Canada. I imagine Scandinavia had “strong sustainable forestry management plans and practices to ensure that forestry ecology is strengthened while ensuring a steady supply of fuel at prices that result in competitive electric rates for their customers.” Didn’t work! If you can remember back three to four years ago ethanol from corn was the savior of fossil fuels. As it turned out, it was a poor plan at best. Didn’t work! As wind, solar and other potential energy sources are developed the costs come down. Stay with coal until these are developed. Put a time limit. America and Michigan can do it! Biomass will do nothing but cause more harm and lost dollars down the road at taxpayers' and electricity consumers' expense. Of all of the people I have asked through out the Traverse City area, in stores, on the street, at theaters etc. Not one person was in favor of biomass. Not one!
Bad direction for TCLP - Martha Ruszkowski
Thank you for your excellent article on biomass. From watching the coverage of the forums that TC Light & Power has held, it is pretty apparent that they had already made up their mind to pursue biomass, despite residents' concerns. It is a money issue for them, not one concerning the best alternative for the residents or the environment. However, I can only hope that if enough concerned residents come forward to oppose this, perhaps it can be stopped. I have to say that I am shocked, as many others are, that Traverse City would allow this. TC has always been progressive and environmentally concerned, but big business and money usually trumps all. The biomass plant will benefit only TCLP customers, but its impact on our forests and the air that we breathe will affect the lives of the residents of the entire area. We are remodeling our home and were looking forward to many years of enjoyment, but now realize that we will have to sell and move. We do not live in TC, but the air currents normally flow this way and I have a lung condition. It will also break my heart to see the decline in our forests from all the wood needed by the many biomass plants being built in northwest Michigan. There are better alternatives. I can only hope that people will rise up to oppose this and fight to keep our area and environment as beautiful and pristine as it is today. I commend you for your coverage and hope that you’ll continue to keep us informed of upcoming news on the proposed TC biomass plant.
Biodisaster in Europe - Anne Zukowski
Regarding biomass: 13,000 tons of wood chips are required to generate 1 megawatt of power for one year, or 35 tons of wood each day. The proposed Mancelona plant will produce about 36 MW of power, which would consume over 1,200 tons of wood each day. According to Adam Sherman of the Biomass Energy Resource Center (commissioned by TCLP to assess fuel supplies for their proposed plant), although wood chips from scraps could be used, “whole tree harvesting is more efficient.” Government subsidies are paying up to 30% of the costs for building biomass burners, hence the sudden drive to build as many new plants as possible before these subsidies run out. It takes minutes to burn a tree, but decades to grow a new one. This is not sustainable. Biomass plants are widely used in Europe. Since European countries have already cut down the overwhelming majority of their trees, they rely on imported wood from Asia, South America, Canada and the U.S. to stoke their biomass furnaces. Just one Swedish company, for example, imports 400,000 metric tons of trees from Florida every year. Nestle Corporation is already bottling and exporting Michigan water. What is to stop international corporations from exporting Michigan forests as well? Northern Michigan was once blanketed in pine forests, with white pines often reaching over 200 feet tall and over 5 feet in diameter. It took loggers a mere 20 years, between 1870 - 1890, to cut most of those trees down. Since that time, our population, energy and land needs have grown exponentially. Burning our forests for fuel is a step back in time. We need to do all we can to protect our forests which provide us with oxygen, wildlife habitat, and make Michigan a unique and beautiful place to live and visit.
Biomass enablers - Joe Warner
The conversation on TCLP’s initiative to build a biomass plant needs to be broadened to include the implications this will have on our cultural psychology. It seems that science is the last word on everything these days. Since the Cartesian revolution, it has become the end all, best way of knowing. But isn’t there something more to this matter than whether or not the numbers add up? When deciding whether or not to cut down one of our most precious living resources to meet an energy quota, let me ask, where does the energy quota come from? Wasn’t there a time when we got by with no power plants, no industrial coal energy facilities, and just used less energy? The most important point of the recent biomass article was that megawatts should be the pressing initiative for our community. So then what is it about our cultural psychology that can’t see that using the best, renewable, sustainable, green, gadgets to continue to meet our “needs” may not be as much of an answer as evaluating our “needs.” When a child is being spoiled and beginning to develop behavior that is unacceptable, a parent can either respond by limiting the indulgence and creating a positive dialogue to correct the behavior, or the parent can continue to spoil the child. By doing the latter, the parent enables the child to continue misbehaving. In some ways, the premise for the TCLP biomass plant, “that we must continue to meet the previous year’s energy needs,” is enabling an unsustainable demand for energy consumption. At this point in time, we have to understand that “need” in a capitalist model, does not fit into an ecological model with limited resources.
Biomass law needed - Mark Richardson
Biocide? Picture your favorite forest getting a 5 to 10 acre clear-cut every day 365 days a year and that’s for just one power plant out of several planned in Northern Michigan. It’s like the gold rush for the power companies: tax dollars help pay to build the plants and the state gives them our forest to burn for next to nothing. But don’t expect a lower electricity bill. Your federal tax dollars are given to the World Bank to pay third world countries not to cut their forests. Michigan may qualify soon, but even third world countries don’t burn their forests to make electricity. I noticed TCLP included private land in their estimate of available wood. A future eminent domain plan perhaps? What’s more important, a few selfish private landowners or electricity for the rest of us? On a more positive note, in a few years biomess is going to make Traverse City's ruined sewerage plant look absolutely brilliant. 150 years ago men with axes and cross-cut saws only took 40 years to turn Michigan into a stump land and we had 10 times the trees then. We need a statewide law to stop this environmental suicide now.
Where are answers? - Robin Beardsley
In response to Ed Rice's March 24 forum, he is right about one thing: This organization has been debating this option for more than a year. They learned what they wanted to hear from the public that might further their cause. They learned how to avoid hot topic issues. After more than a year studying this option, they were bewildered at most of the questions, and we still have no answers. Yet, his letter indicates a decision is finalized. This organization couldn't manage three dams creating renewable energy. How can they be entrusted to build and manage such a significant undertaking based on their credentials? That's scary. We know about studies. The only reason the 1800s mentality is being considered is due to energy mandates, which natural gas does not meet. Yet, natural gas is three times cleaner and more efficient. Renewable energy should be considered renewable only if it takes seven years or less to renew. How many tons of forest converted to kilowatt hours will it take just to recoup this investment? Where are the answers, and does the American Lung Association approve?
Get them to listen - Mary Malewitz
I agree with Claude Mills' April 18 letter regarding the biomass project. With all the examples in the world of renewable energy, Ed Rice wants to take us back 100 years. People who are against the biomass project and have Traverse City Light & Power need to see if they can switch to Consumers Energy in protest to the plant. I have been happy with Consumers Energy for 15 years, and it is cheaper than my neighbors who have Light and Power. They have had a few meetings on this issue, and the majority of people who have attended are opposed to putting a biomass plant here. But the people in charge are ignoring the majority. If enough people call to cancel their service maybe then they will listen.
Put forests first - Richard Allen
Suppose we approach biomass from a "forests first" perspective. First, let's realize that our forests have already been vastly damaged and degraded by a century of abuse and neglect. We must see the forest as our commonwealth and that our health is inextricably linked to the health of the forest. We have the responsibility and the ability to reverse the damage. Through careful stewardship, we can be healers of the damage to our forests. Periodically "combing" through the forest, culling, thinning, limbing and selective harvesting will yield large amounts of biomass and the forest will over time be more valuable with better timber. Can we expect this careful extraction from the industrial producers contracted by TCLP? It's not going to happen! When the cost per kilowatt hour is the bottom line, our forests, soil, air and habitat will be degraded and the disengaged consumer will fund it.
In Honor of Earth Day - Bruce Carpenter
In honor of earth day my city is going to tear down Three Hydro-Electric facilities and replace them with Bio Mass plants I suggest they build them in the Nature Reserves were the Dams were and and kick off the bio mass grand opening by cutting down all of trees on both sides of the river valley and float them down river to the incinerators thus turning the rest of the nature reserves to moon scape matching what is already devistated by the dam removal.
Why not wind? — Ronald D. Dykstra
Michigan has a tremendous opportunity to help make our environment and economy “green.” Both the lower and upper peninsulas are surrounded by excellent to outstanding off shore and on shore areas to construct wind farms. The wind turbine industry could create more jobs replacing those lost in the automotive industry. From Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth electric generation is responsible for 36% of carbon dioxide pollution, 64% of sulfur dioxide pollution, 26% of nitrogen oxide pollution, and 34% of mercury pollution in the U.S. These pollutants are not only responsible for acid rain making our lakes and streams more acidic, but contribute significantly to global warming. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the principle driver of climate change and is now one of the world's most predictable environmental trends resulting from emissions that are overwhelming nature’s capacity to absorb carbon. It is time to put on the fast track all sources of renewable energy, and in Michigan that is a network of wind farms. Oil wells go dry, coal runs out, but Michigan’s wind resources cannot be depleted. Land requirements to produce energy from wind farms are extremely efficient; i.e. an acre of land used for a wind farm can produce $300,000 worth of electricity per year. This same acre used to grow corn to produce ethanol used with gasoline is worth $960. Electricity produced by wind farms could eventually replace coal-fired power plants. charge hybrid cars, and lower pollution levels that would help stabilize our climate. As in WW II, when Michigan’s automotive assembly lines produced B- 24 bombers, our idle automotive capacity could be producing wind turbines. It is time that Michigan got serious, and put its idle automotive assembly plants and skilled workers back to work.
Animals are dying - Bruce Carpenter
Spring brings another year to the Grand Traverse County Educational Nature Reserve, marking the third year and another generation of animals decimated through the Boardman Valley. Shorebirds, burrowing mammals and reptilians that don't stand a chance against the ebb-flow of a natural river, while in the past the dams acted to stabilize lake levels at plus or minus two inches; the comparison now is three to five feet. These reserves were dedicated to ensure these endangered and protected species a chance to survive. We are failing them. They are dying and being displaced. Those of us who enter or live within the reserve will witness the suffering and death of these animals and their babies and continual loss of their habitat. Remember this inexcusable act of ignorance forever by thanking your city and county commissioners for their absence of vision and stewardship for all things wild and our nature reserves.
Emissions from Coal vs Biomass - Dr. William Sammons
The burning of biomass is not "better than coal" especially when you factor in the loss of active sequestration at a time when we need every tree we can get. Yes fireplaces/stoves are "dirty" and EPA is coming out with new regulations. I have presented information to multiple committees in Congress and the EPA. No one is disputing the accuracy of the information. Here is a selected review of the background on the biomass combustion issue. If you wold like more information, please let me know. I have attached the documents in order to follow the text. The first is the proposed legislative language which can simply be added to H.R. 2454 or the Bingaman Bill [American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (ACELA, Senate Report 111-48)] or it could be a separate provision of the bill now being negotiated in the Senate. There is no requirement for significant re-writing of the provisions of either bill or the alteration of definitions for this amendment to be included.
The central point is that burning biomass is dirtier than burning coal. What has been sold as a "clean" solution will actually become a very big problem if the provisions of the law are not changed and the renewable energy targets in HR 2454 are met for 2020 [see 700]. Conservatively the combustion of biomass will release 700,000,000 tons of CO2 in 2020 and each year thereafter. Since these emissions are not counted under the cap [see page 3-4 of model letter and FN5 for language citations from text of 2454] the result will be a significant spike in emissions, not a reduction [see %].
The fallacy in the argument is that the emissions form biomass combustion are reported to e-grid [hence used in model data] as a zero because repeated EPA statements have "assumed" [their word--direct quote] that the emissions are carbon neutral [see carbon neutrality]. In response to a FOIA request, the EPA did not provide one study or any data that validated this assumption. They did send multiple documents that repeated the word "assumption", and a few contradictory statements about how long the reabsorption of carbon would take, one actually acknowledging that it would be hundreds of years. This is in line with the statement in the Proposed Regulation from EPA last April [P 18899 -- red box -- from the Fed Reg Vol 74 "EPA Endangerment" attached] which indicates that 50% of all current and future emissions of carbon will take hundreds to thousands of years to be reabsorbed. Moreover accurate recent data shows that mature trees continue to sequester carbon while new plantings are often emitters of carbon for up to 20 years [NRDC, old growth].
Any process which takes hundreds of years cannot be part of a solution to a problem which requires a solution in years or at most a few decades given the lag effect of CO2 changes and the multiplier effects of we are seeing in the ecosystem as the carbon level rises and the White House Report acknowledged as "exponential" increases. The process has been falsely labeled as "biogenic" by proponents [see closing the loophole attached], but burning is human-caused, not part of the natural cycle, and articles published last week in science clearly indicate that biomass combustion is not carbon neutral and should not be considered in the same lifecycle system as biofuel production [see Searchinger attached]. Because the combustion of biomass has been sold as "clean" the operators of these are exempt from buying allowances, and because it is renewable, able to get renewable energy credits. These two financial incentives make these plants very profitable and provide an unfair advantage, especially against other types of baseload plants, which is unmerited and represent an unwise investment of taxpayer money since the biomass combustion is actually dirtier than coal.
Steve Smiley - Windpower is easy
I am writing in response to the recent articles and opinions about windpower in northern Michigan. Achieving 20 percent of our electric supply in Michigan can be easy if we want to do it. It can be done, because it has been done. There is one county in northern Denmark where 130 percent of their electric consumption is from windpower, exceeding the needs of 12,000 citizens. All this has been done with older and smaller windmills. Here, two to five larger windmills can supply all the annual electric consumption of a typical township. Properly sited these windmills will preserve farmland, be a pleasant site on the landscape and be visual representation that we are making clean power. After 30 years the windmills can be removed and the landscape restored. We can't say that about the rural sprawl and condo developments that are permanently changing our landscape. Having this visual representation of clean energy beats the invisible pollution we each are responsible for creating in our air and water, the mercury, CO2, SOx, NOx. Global warming is real, in spite of what Rush Limbaugh thinks, and we have a lot of work to do, to abate this coming catastrophe.
Elisa Barrett - A Conservation Biologists View of Biomass
I am sincerely concerned in regard to the plans by TCL&P in building a Biomass Plant. In actuality I am concerned Biomass Plants are actually being viewed as viable alternatives to fossil fuels at all. Such a plant is counter productive to reducing the carbon dioxide load of Earth. Just because energy can be derived from burning trees doesn't mean it is green energy. The reality is that sincere Green Energy is 'carbon free' and not 'carbon neutral.' Beside the Biomass Plant isn't in reality carbon neutral. The problems that beset the Traverse City plant also goes beyond simply being opposed to the plant. It begins with conflict of interest by some members of the city government and Traverse City Light and Power. Any member in any government capacity that shares an interest with any of the operation of Traverse City Light and Power should recuse themselves from participating in votes for or against the Biomass Plant. There is also the issue of the hydroelectric dams. They need to be revisited before they are ruled out as a viable solution for some of the energy needs of the region. It isn’t good enough that TCL&P does not want to use them as a power source; it has to be proven in the year 2010 that those dams are out of the question. That is only accomplished when scientists can accurately diagnosis the problems along with potential solutions in regard to the remaining three dams. Additionally, the basis of the argument TCL&P gives for choosing a Biomass Plant over any other power source is refutable. It was stated at the April 7th final meeting between the citizens and the company that the IPCC and Dr. Chris Fields advocate biomass as an alternative fuel. That is contradictory to any facts. In a public release of information in February 2009, Dr. Chris Fields, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group stated the impacts by carbon dioxide to Earth has been understated and the levels have skyrocketed between the years 2000-2007. He went on to say that wildfires of all forests, including tropical rainforests, can be anticipated as the planet warms. Therefore, the idea that forests are a sustainable commodity for use as energy is unrealistic. And TCL&P is misusing the facts of the IPCC to represent a false claim to validate the use of biomass. In the final meeting with the public it was noted there are brand new wind maps of the Great Lakes and that Canada has more promising wind maps of those same lakes. It is a far better conclusion to realize all the evidence is not in yet as to the best path for Traverse City to take and further investigation is necessary. Traverse City’s citizens would be misguided in voting for any bond issue to build such a biomass plant.
Dr. William C. Scharf, Ph.D., LLC - Consequences to Wildlife and Forests from TCL&P biomass to energy scheme
My thoughts. According to Marv Roberson (Sierra Club forest ecologist) there are unlikely to be enough private owners willing to allow harvest at the price they project. There will be several competitors for the public lands going all the way across the straits. The damages to public lands would be obvious from an ecosystem, wildlife, and loss of recreation. Whole tree harvesting: if they go this route, as one consultant states they should, then the damage to the soil nutrients, soil invertebrates, vernal pools, herbaceous vegetation, and wildlife (both game and nongame) will be apparent—for at least 15 years. Quick Rotation fiber crops: hybrid and genetically modified tree and shrub crops will short circuit all food webs, and because native wildlife, insects, amphibians, and reptiles are not adapted to this vegetation, it will turn the associated lands into a biological desert. A clear damage will result. Coarse Woody Debris harvesting: there are a suite of plants and animals that depend on Coarse Woody Debris. Most affected would be salamanders, insects, wood frogs, red-bellied and ring-necked snakes, wood turtles, and Blanding's turtles. Removal of Coarse Woody Debris from woodlands deprives the soil of nutrients, saprophytes and their associated animals of food energy, and species such as ruffed grouse of drumming logs for mating. Select harvests of aspen stands can increase the numbers of ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and golden-winged warblers. Large scale harvests can be detrimental to the same species. We are unsure of the future regeneration time of forests in a hotter, drier climate; might some of the absent forest tracts end up becoming permanent grasslands, or lichen fields, as the result of deforestation?
Claud Mills - A pretense of listening
A biomass facility is wrong on so many levels. I'll mention just three. One: Haven't all the industrialized countries of the world been begging the Amazon nations to stop cutting down their jungles and forests in order to save the ozone layer? Yet we're going to cut down our own CO2-consuming, oxygen-producing (scrub or not) trees and burn them? Two: Just east of town off Supply Road on prime recreation land, huge areas of forest are being leveled by loggers who leave just enough token trees standing so "technically" it's not clear cut. Is this the "managed/renewable" logging we can look forward to? We don't even have a biomass plant yet. Three: How can anyone justify this option to all of the non-Traverse City Light & Power customers in this area who will be adversely affected just so Light & Power customers can have cheaper electricity? How is that legally and ethically justifiable? It's time to stop this consideration of biomass. Ed Rice and Light & Power seem intent on shoving biomass down our throats while making a thinly veiled pretense of listening to the public. They are not listening. Speak up, people.
Mark Richardson - Stop the 'biocide'
"Biocide?" Picture your favorite forest getting a 5- to 10-acre clear cut every day, 365 days a year, and that's just one biomass plant. They're talking 15 to 20 plants in northern Michigan. It's like the Gold Rush for the power companies. Tax dollars help pay to build the plants, and the state gives them our forests to burn for next to nothing. But don't expect a lower electricity bill. Your federal tax dollars are given to the World Bank to pay third-world countries not to cut their forests. Michigan may qualify soon, but even third-world countries don't burn their forests to make electricity. I noticed they included private land in their estimate of available wood. A future eminent-domain plan, perhaps? What's more important? A few selfish private landowners or electricity for the rest of us? About 150 years ago, men with axes and cross-cut saws only took 40 years to turn Michigan into a stump land and we had 10 times the trees then. We need a statewide law to stop this environmental suicide now.
Ronald D. Dykstra - Wind turbines an answer
Michigan has a tremendous opportunity to help make our environment and economy "green." Both the Lower and Upper peninsulas are surrounded by outstanding offshore and onshore areas to construct wind farms. The wind turbine industry could create more jobs replacing those lost in the automotive industry. From Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Growth, electric generation is responsible for 36 percent of carbon dioxide, 64 percent of sulfur dioxide, 26 percent of nitrogen oxide, and 34 percent of mercury pollution in the United States. These pollutants are not only responsible for acid rain, but contribute to global warming. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the principle driver of climate change overwhelming nature's capacity to absorb carbon. It is time to put a network of wind farms on the fast track in Michigan. Oil wells go dry, coal runs out, but wind resources cannot be depleted. Electricity produced by wind farms could eventually replace coal-fired power plants, charge hybrid cars and lower pollution levels that would help stabilize our climate. Michigan's idle automotive capacity could be producing wind turbines, and put idle automotive assembly plants and skilled workers back to work.
Meg Sheehan - I'd like to add my perspective
The question is: "why burn trees for electricity when this is the dirtiest form of electricity there is?" Its not a question of how many trees we have to burn. It's well documented:
- Biomass incinerators will be raining down toxic pollutants on the public and driving up health care costs for asthma, cancer etc
- Taxpayers and ratepayers are being ripped off
- We are paying higher electric rates on our electricity bills for the electricity from biomass incinerators, and we're being told its clean and green
- Our taxes are going to build power plants that will spew toxins 24/7/365 for the next 30-50 years.
- That isn't clean energy — its a fraud.
Niel Haugen - Dams offer clean energy
Traverse City—Without having an engineering background or anything to gain, common sense would dictate that the money to be spent on a biomass plant would be better spent on repairing our dams. Nothing has been mentioned about the traffic that a biomass plant would generate or the cost of maintaining the damage from the trucks that would be required to fuel the plant, which would burden our already overtaxed infrastructure. Dams don't require energy or fuel to run. They provide a clean, renewable source of energy. If properly maintained, dams provide a low-cost energy return and they are already in place without having the expense of construction. If you add the cost of dam removal and the money proposed on a biomass plant, it seems that there is an advantage to repairing and maintaining the dams. We rush ahead toward new technology without looking at what we have or what worked in the past. Like our railroads, which we removed, it's too late and too costly to go back and replace them when they're gone. I am tired of mortgaging my grandchildren's future with spending projects that don't seem to make sense to common folks.
Randy Bond - Muir's wisdom
John Muir said, “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” I believe only fools would build biomass plants.
Rolinda D. LeMay, M.Ed. - Ecological rape
As a former naturalist and science educator I am incredulous as to the “logic” behind this proposed wood-burning gasification plant. Doesn’t anyone in any position of power “get it” that stripping northwest Michigan of its trees has the potential for a horrific snowball effect on the local ecosystem? Logging will expose unstable dunal-glacial moraine soils beneath the forest. As these ancient dune soils are exposed to wind and weather, greater erosion, blowouts and devastation will result. And the proposed method of logging out an area and replanting will not replace delicate species of flora and fauna that have taken hundreds of years to establish (in climax forestland). And what of the eco-tourism that has long been a mainstay of the economy of Northern Michigan? Since I was a child roaming the hills behind my childhood home in Traverse City, to the summer vacations I now spend up there with family and friends, it has been the forests and the lakes that are the draw to come home. This proposal is tantamount to ecological rape. Adding insult to injury, the power plant promoters are false in saying that wood ash is “non-toxic.” Early settlers used wood ash to create lye (as any fourth grader studying history knows) to make soap. Water + wood ash = high pH caustic lye. So, just how are they planning to sequester thousands of tons of wood-ash byproduct from this plant? Leaked into the water system caustic, high-pH leachate would devastate area watersheds, altering the pH of ground water and creating a disaster for aquatic life. Besides the horrible initial impact to wildlife (loss of habitat and species, forced migration of species across roadways to seek new homes...), this will also affect the mental well-being of those living in and around logged areas (demoralization and depression at seeing huge swaths of treeless land where forests once stood). And it would likely decrease already depressed property values as well. Who wants to live near areas stripped bare of trees and laid waste to? A few scrawny seedlings doesn’t make up for a climax forest. I hope the citizens rally to the defense of area forests and stop this plant. Burn trash if you will, but don’t burn trees!!
John Teesdale - Burning trees
In a recent Anne Stanton article in the Northern Express about biomass and burning of trees for electricity, the claim was made once again by supporters that burning trees is carbon neutral. According to this theory a tree rotting on the ground emits the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as burning it. On its face this statement may sound reasonable, but it is actually just scientific garbage. Here is why. When you do any sort of scientific comparison you must make sure that all the mitigating factors are equal. For example you would not want to compare burning a 10-inch, 200-foot tree with a 2-inch sapling laying on the ground. That would not be fair. Yet in this analysis, supporters of biomass have ignored one of the most basic and important variables of all: time. It may take only 10 minutes to burn and inject all the carbon of a tree into the atmosphere, but laying on the ground rotting could take 70 to 80 years to accomplish the same thing. When you ignore time as a factor the conclusions you come up with are wrong. For example, what if you wanted to see if keeping milk in the refrigerator is better than leaving it on the counter? In both cases the milk goes bad and cannot be used. Granted, it takes longer to spoil in the fridge, but if time is not a factor then we can conclude the fridge is useless. Or which is more corrosive, sulfuric acid or water? Take a bucket of each, put a piece of steel sheet metal in each one and wait. The sheet metal in the water will rust and corrode to nothing, the same as in the acid. So is there no difference between sulfuric acid and water? I can even say things like exploding an atomic bomb will not put any more radiation into the atmosphere than would happen normally. If you ignore time then that’s a true statement. Another problem with this theory is that biomass supporters are comparing apples to oranges. They are not planning to burn dead trees laying on the forest floor. They want to cut and burn living trees.
Margaret B. Dodd (former Mayor of Traverse City) - People have spoken
I am a Traverse City Light & Power customer so I am also a Light & Power owner. At regular meetings to discuss biomass I was not allowed to ask questions and was told, "Public comment is for commenting." At L&P "forums" their presentations again took precedence over public questions, but photos of their comment sheets show the vast majority of people oppose burning biomass, as reflected in letters to the editor. Light & Power must achieve 10 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2020 but chooses to try for 30 percent. As clean technology is not yet available to achieve this goal, they have decided to build up to four $30 million biomass plants in and around Traverse City, and have hired a PR company to sell the plan. Unfortunately a bad idea does not become a good idea by throwing subsidies at it. Our economy is tourist based. It makes no sense to burn trees to the detriment of our environment, economy and health. The people have spoken, but L&P refuses to listen. L&P needs city commission approval to issue the first $30 million bond. City commissioners who want to be re-elected must listen. Tell them.
Robin Beardsley - Where are answers?
In response to Ed Rice's March 24 forum, he is right about one thing: This organization has been debating this option for more than a year. They learned what they wanted to hear from the public that might further their cause. They learned how to avoid hot topic issues. After over a year studying this option, they were bewildered at most of the questions, and we still have no answers. Yet, his letter indicates a decision is finalized. This organization couldn't manage three dams creating renewable energy. How can they be entrusted to build and manage such a significant undertaking based on their claims (that's scary). We know all about studies. The only reason 1800s mentality is being considered is due to energy mandates which natural gas does not meet. Yet, natural gas is three times cleaner and more efficient. Renewable energy should be considered renewable only if it takes seven years or less to renew. How many tons of forest converted to kilowatt hours will it take just to recoup this investment? Where are the answers and does the American Lung Association approve?
Mary Sharry - Without full thought
I fear that Traverse City Light & Power is rushing into an energy source without full thought or understanding of forest strata and the ensuing pollution caused by machine-operated logging.
NMEAC - Letter to TCL&P following their letter from Ed Rice to Traverse City ratepayers
We can't overstate how disappointed NMEAC was to read the letter from TCL&P. It was issued weeks before April 7, the date on which TCL&P has said it will share its analysis of the community's concerns expressed in the February forums. And it was mailed in the same week that you and Jim Cooper met with our board and assured us that no decisions would be made about the biomass plan until all the concerns had been fully researched and studies had been completed of all feasible options for meeting your laudable 30 by 20 goals. READ THE ENTIRE LETTER
Henry S. Ramsby - The coming biomassacre
As a certified green builder I feel I am qualified to render an opinion on the unsettling topic of biomass. It has become obvious, after reading the well-written article by Anne Stanton (3/8/10), that Ed Rice of Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP), mayor Chris Bzdok, city commissioner Jim Carruthers and all the other proponents of biomass are either ignorant of or are ignoring specific, glaring, data. To skew certain facts and totally ignore others altogether to expound on and expand their arguments for a biomass plant only proves they are not qualified to render any definitive opinions at all. Case in point.
- There is ample proof that a biomass plant is not as carbon neutral as they would have us believe. And it’s an absurd comparison from those who assert burning a tree releases the same amount of carbon dioxide as one that decomposes over 40 years. In that span of time, an average biomass plant will have burned 4 million tons of wood from 3 million “harvested” wood acres, releasing 8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- There is a reason that trees die and decompose -- this regenerates our soils, reduces erosion, and feeds the most benign micro-organisms at the beginning of the food chain amongst others. No one knows what the long term consequences would be by removing this staple, and to ignore the potential consequences is extremely shortsighted and selfish.
- The rush to produce corn-based ethanol has proved to be one of the biggest follies of the 21st century for numerous reasons before one even considers the government subsidies issue. Don’t any of these so-called experts see the corollary between biomass plants and the many ethanol plants that have gone idle or closed down altogether?
- Has anyone drawn concentric circles in a 75 mile radius around Mancelona, Traverse City, and potentially Frankfort? Guess what? They overlap. So how is this going to work when you now have three times the demand for wood products from the same areas of our region? Logging and select cutting is very invasive and this will decimate these areas.
- Consider that TCLP has spent millions on a wind generator that produces only one per cent of their annual power and has already required several hundred thousand dollars in maintenance (incorporating used parts because new ones were cost prohibitive). I think the true cost of wind electricity is more than 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Is this good fiscal responsibility on TCLP’s part? There are many sensible alternatives to biomass but it would seem the $25 million they (TCLP) have in reserve is burning a hole in their pocket and not being managed wisely at this juncture. Common sense is just not in their vocabulary. I am a big proponent for exploring reasonable and more realistic alternate energy sources, but to rush foolhardily into a technology whose potential long term detriments haven’t been fully weighed or explored is madness. And to potentially destroy a resource faster than it can regenerate is not a good example of sound reasoning or a well planned venue -- it’s woodland genocide --it’s a biomassacre. •
Bob Wallick - Biomass a forest disaster
My opposition to biomass production of electricity is based in the fact that I love trees. The carbon they absorb and the oxygen returned are just an extension of their positive contribution to the natural beauty we enjoy here in Northern Michigan. I feel any wholesale slaughter of our forests to help create electricity would be a grave error in judgement and a continuing negative influence on the health of anything living, as well as the health of our tourism based economy. The burning of wood produces not only the particle pollutants known for the brownouts of some western resort towns, but also 18 polycyclic hydrocarbons, dioxins, carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, as well as trace amounts of radioactive cesium and two psychologically damaging elements in copper and lead. Maybe the gasification could help reduce this pollution problem but this process would seem to be expensive to build and maintain, and as the article in the 3/8 Northern Express says it is an unproven technology at the scale being considered. If job creation in the local economy is a factor, I would suggest TCL&P consider following the lead of Ann Arbor mentioned in Anne Stanton's article. The power company could become involved in the installation and maintenance of solar panels and wind turbines where applicable, on an individual basis. They appear to have the capital to finance this effort and might easily see a much greater, continuing return on dollars invested. It would also eliminate a crisis should this single source biomass production need to be shut down for maintenance, which would seem to be an inevitability. TCL&P could even become involved in the financing of these individual units creating even more revenue for the company and more job opportunities in the area.
LaVern P. Broughton - Repair the dams
I attended the forum at the Hagerty Center put on by Light & Power. The director was not very well prepared for the forum. His statement that the Brown Bridge Dam was built in 1912, 200 years ago, does not hold water because it was built in 1921, 89 years ago. Chairman Linda Johnson stated the Boardman River does not have enough water volume to run a hydroelectric dam. I would like to know what it has been during the past 89 years. At one time the Boardman River had three dams producing electricity, including the Brown Bridge Dam. I believe the old dams should be repaired and add a new dam before Logan's Landing. There also could be paddle wheel generators installed on platforms added to the river. Biomass plants are acid rain producers and not good for our atmosphere. My information is on the Internet. Try dams around the world and paddle wheel generators.
Joy Platteborze - Plan short-sighted
I attended the biomass meeting at the Hagerty Center. It was quite apparent that Traverse City Light & Power was going to go ahead with trying to build and run a biomass plant here no matter what the residents of Traverse City wanted. I am appalled at how short-sighted this plan is. We would be on the cutting edge if, instead, Light & Power Co. spent their (our) dollars on retrofitting the dams on the Boardman River and installing at least eight to 10 wind turbines in Leelanau or Benzie Counties. We don't need to put them in Lake Michigan. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Montana built their turbine farms on dry land, so can we. Traverse City.
Al Evans - Why not natural gas?
I do not understand why, in the debate about whether to build a biomass plant in the Traverse area, natural gas is not being considered as a power source. With biomass there are concerns about the quantity of wood needed, where it will come from, and whether future supply can be guaranteed; the number of trucks needed on a daily basis to deliver the fuel and the associated congestion and wear on our roads; where and how to safely dispose of the mountains of ash the plant will produce; the health affects of air-borne soot and particulates; the fact that a biomass plant will likely produce as much air pollution as a coal fired plant, etc. None of these issues exist with natural gas. Natural gas is twice as clean as coal and Michigan was identified in a recent Wall Street Journal article as having abundant supplies. Could it be that it is not considered because it is not considered a renewable fuel? I would like to see natural gas much more widely used for power generation -- as an alternative to coal and/or biomass -- or a public explanation of why it is not a good idea.
John Teesdale - Not carbon neutral
At the Traverse City Light & Power public forum, I was extremely alarmed when they made the statement that burning trees was carbon neutral. The theory is that trees rotting on the forest floor turn into carbon anyway, so burning them makes no difference. This is a false assumption. In order for any scientific comparison to be valid, all the mitigating factors must be equal. In this case they are not. The difference is that a large tree on the ground can take 75 years to fully decompose. This is a slow release of carbon into the atmosphere. Burning a tree releases all the carbon into the atmosphere in a matter of minutes. The result is a massive release of CO2 into the atmosphere with the expectations that you will get back to a carbon-neutral position in about 75 years. Their theory is scientific garbage because by ignoring the time factor you can prove that burning anything eventually will become carbon neutral. Add in the fact that rotting trees sequester some of the carbon into the ground, and cutting down a living tree stops it from producing oxygen, and the carbon-neutral point gets moved even farther out.
Lee Nowak - Get answers first
I agree heartily with Suzannah Tobin's comments quoted in a Feb. 28 story regarding the need for a detailed study about the sources of "scrap wood" needed to fuel the proposed biomass plant. I also would like to see a reopening of the study to reinstall hydroelectric dams on the Boardman River. All the questions raised by the Record-Eagle's editorial of the same day should be answered before we resort to burning wood to light our homes. Do we really want to do that to our environment?
Jeff Gibbs - Northern Michigan Speaks: No Biomass Plants Here!
It’s time to move on, the community has spoken: no biomass burning. I call on Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) to honor their commitment to listen to the people and drop their plans to build one or more biomass burning plants in Traverse City. No need to wait until April; let us all get on with the work of figuring out how to move forward with wood-fired power plants off the table. At two forums held by Traverse City Light and Power this week several hundred people could hardly have been more clear: they don’t want any sort of biomass burning plants in Traverse City and think the whole concept of stopping global warming by burning wood ranges anywhere from suspect to tragically wrong. Frankly, I was stunned. Despite months of marketing and a dozen presentations where only pro-biomass presenters were invited, and despite TCL&P’s forums beginning with a pro-biomass presentation and many frustrated citizens walking out, about 90% or more of the participants last Thursday and Saturday opposed biomass burning.
Jeff Stratton - February 25 Traverse City Light and Power Forum Report
Well there was a very good turn out at the City Opera House last night for the TCLP forum to discuss the future energy needs. Basically how the conducted this meeting was first they did a power point presentation on their plan, how much it would cost by kilowatt hour of energy by systems, how these systems would impact the environment, and then they asked three questions.
Lee Sprague - Clean Energy Campaign Manager for the Sierra Club
What is the solution if not Biomass in Traverse City? Upgrading the existing Traverse City Light and Power Kalkaska 50MW single cycle natural gas plant to a combined cycle plant has a lower capital outlay than building a biomass plant. A combined cycle plant also has significant reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) compared to a biomass plant. If reducing our CO2 is a goal in Traverse City, natural gas beats biomass to a pulp. This could be a win/win for TCL&P consumers, with lower impacts on health and environment than a biomass plant. Any cost savings over building a biomass plant can be used to purchase wind or solar facilities, purchase renewable energy credits or simply reduce the cost curve for future energy costs. In addition, TCL&P could start re-planting a bio diverse range of trees rather than burning and replanting green trees. Most infrastructure costs to convert the Kalkaska station has been capitalized in, access roads, pipeline delivery systems and electrical tie-in to the grid. Attached are four documents. The first two are companies that convert single cycle gas power plants into combined cycle plants that are highly efficient base load electric generators. The third attachment and fourth attachments are comparisons of various fuels and the levelized cost of electricity. Both the 2009 California Energy Commission and the 2008 Lazard study show that natural gas is cost competitive with biomass electrical generation. The Lazard study does contain the error showing biomass as no CO2 equivalent emissions. I think we all know that CO2 is emitted from biomass Natural gas works best when produced and consumed locally rather than transporting it across state lines. Avoids lowering TC regional terrestrial carbon sequestration potential. Limited impact on biodiversity of forests Limited landfill and wastewater impacts Eliminates transportation fuels used in harvesting and delivery of biomass and trucking biomass waste ash in the watershed for next 50 years. Just an Idea!
Attachments: Combined Cycle Conversion | Combined Cycle Power Plant | Comparative Cost of Electricity Production | Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis
Greg Reisig - Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council
Go slow on biomass The Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) would like to praise Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP) for their goal to use 30% renewable energy by the year 2020. This is an ambitious and worthy goal that should be supported by the entire Grand Traverse region. The question is... how should this goal be achieved? ... Let the people of the city and region freely express their concerns and ideas and help decide which forms of renewable energy are the best fit for Traverse City. In recent weeks, many concerns about building biomass plants have been expressed. Let those concerns have a full airing at the upcoming forums. Some have even suggested possible alternatives to biomass and these should be given serious consideration. It is also important for TCLP to further explore energy conservation to help achieve its goals as well as work with the Grand Vision Energy Group. There may be additional ways to reduce our energy use and lower demand for electricity over the next three to five years. Please slow down any final decisions on biomass plants until the community can discuss all of the alternatives at these open forums scheduled for late February.
Vivian Parker, formerly with the Forest Service
When I worked for the Forest Service, the managers liked to say that once a forest had been turned into a plantation, it was “under management.” This was their primary goal (the opposite of wild-erness). Once a forest was “under management” then there were no longer any considerations for spotted owls and other pesky ecological issues. They could do whatever they wanted with the area then. Paul Ehrlich wrote in the book Extinction (1980s) that agriculture is the number one cause of deforestation world wide....in the future, it won’t matter whether the trees are to be used for fuel, food, or houses...in the global economy, at the rate of the world’s population growth now, there won’t be room for forests in the Brave New World... If ecological literacy was a required condition of civilized society, and if people cared deeply about the importance of biological diversity, there might be hope...but that doesn’t appear to be likely. Michael Moore said it well on Democracy Now yesterday...the “dumbing down” of modern populations serves the corporate agenda well.
The rule of exploitation is to buy low, sell high, corner markets and pass the real costs of environmental degradation on to the public and future generations. Trees are energy dollars in the bank. The longer the public holds them, the more valuable they become. Biomass exploitation allows the oil and gas industry to hoard their supplies of gas and oil while buying up and burning the living forests at a low cost. It is the oil and gas industry that will benefit from subsidies, energy credits and sales. And when the forests are gone, they are gone for generations and we will be hostages of the oil and gas companies. As someone who has worked to set aside forested areas, I fear that poverty and need and biomass plants buying and consuming our forest resources, will embolden poachers, as it has in other places in the country and the world. Selling and burning the forests is not the solution to our energy needs. This is a sad situation indeed. We need to follow Massachusetts' lead and regulate and restrict the devastation of biomass as an energy source. We must sell conservation and smart energy use to TCLP.
Greg Reisig - Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council
The board of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) agrees with the Record-Eagle editorial of Jan. 12 stating Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP) should not rush into a hasty decision concerning the construction of a biomass plant in or near Traverse City. It is also important for TCLP to be consistent with the principles stated in the Grand Vision which call for a major conservation effort to cut energy use. This includes a goal of encouraging all buildings to be energy efficient in their location, design and their use.
Rachel Smolker, Ph.D. - Biofuelwatch
What a shame Traverse City Light & Power is pushing more biomass burning on Michigan. Biomass shouldn't be lumped with wind and solar as "renewable" because anything that is burned really is not renewable. The biomass advocates claim that burning wood is "carbon neutral" because trees will grow back. But anybody who has had a kitchen garden knows that if you keep harvesting, the soils decline, and after a while, you have to add nutrients and fertilize. The same is true for forests. After a few harvests, the regrowth declines. Given that it takes 13 thousand tons of wood to generate 1 megawatt of electricity -- there will be a lot of "forest mining" in Michigan. Consider also that it takes a few minutes to burn a tree and release its CO2 into the atmosphere, but maybe 50 to 100 years to regrow and resequester that CO2. There are also the health impacts of wood smoke to consider. Wood burning releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a nasty carcinogen.
Keith Breuker, The particulate pollution from biomass power generation should be carefully considered
Since the 1976 “Harvard Six City Study” and numerous studies since, there has been little controversy that particulate pollution is a public health menace. There is no safe level, only acceptable levels. For every ounce of particulate we add to the air, we lose an ounce of public health. Are we willing to accept a few more deaths & childhood asthma cases in exchange for biomass plants?