The Problem of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) & Field Representative, Ms Gina Banks
Long a supporter of Lake Tahoe’s restoration and preservation, U.S. Senator Feinstein is a major force for environmentalism and all things green, particularly at Tahoe. As a result, she has been a major factor in the promotion of federal funding for forest fuel reduction activities, wildfire abatement, and so on. These are essential activities that Friends of Lake Tahoe also supports. And, as an ardent environmentalist, it would be expected that she would be supportive of biomass utilization in general, as are we. Indeed, we admire and respect her and her Field Representative for Northern California, Ms Gina Banks, tremendously.
Having said that, however, there is a problem in that the Senator is on record supporting the biomass plant planned for Kings Beach. We believe, as do others (particularly those in the fire protection and forest fuel reduction professions at Tahoe), that the support on the behalf of her office and its staff stems from a lack of information coupled with skewed information regarding the issue. We find this both unfortunate and worrisome.
Attempting to address this problem, our sister organization’s President, Gerald Wotel (NTCAA), wrote a “Letter to the Editor” of the Sacramento Bee, following the publication of a piece by Feinstein in The Bee on about Tahoe and its plight. Her article, printed on November 21, 2010, “Viewpoints: UCD Report Shows Time is Running out to Save Tahoe,” is well done and encourages support for passage of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2010. We applaud her efforts to save Tahoe but find incongruous her support for the biomass project. See: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/21/3199368/ucd-report-shows-time-is-running.html
President Wotel’s letter was printed by The Bee on November 26, 2010:
Ban Biomass Burning in the Basin
Re "UCD report shows time is running out to save Tahoe" (Viewpoints, Nov. 21):
We ardently support Sen. Dianne Feinstein's efforts regarding the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2010.
However, we find her support of a proposal to build a biomass power plant in a densely populated area adjacent to an elementary school in Kings Beach incongruous and troubling. The unique nature of the Tahoe basin ecology cannot tolerate more pollution from burning of any kind.
Open burning of forest waste to reduce the danger of wildfires can be avoided by continuing to transport the waste to the facility near Truckee for processing, and then onto the nearby Loyalton Biomass Plant. We can only conclude that her support for trucking the fuel back into the Tahoe basin for a biomass plant is based upon incomplete and skewed information.
Moreover, we believe the project's environmental impact study, which resulted from a noncompetitive bidding process, will produce a report devoid of both plant alternatives and input from the Environmental Protection Agency. We respectfully urge her to revisit her position. Biomass burning should be banned in the Tahoe basin.
Gerald Wotel, President, North Tahoe Citizen Action Alliance
As mentioned, because they are dependent upon the funding that Senator Feinstein promotes, many in the fire protection and forest fuel reduction professions at Tahoe are particularly worried about the consequences of her office’s misunderstanding of the issues of the biomass plant proposed for Kings Beach. While they must remain anonymous for obvious reasons, they have informed us repeatedly that they are uncomfortable with unilaterally informing the Senator, who is a former County Supervisor and also has acquaintances in the service of TRPA, that she and Ms Banks have been mislead by both governing agencies regarding supposed benefits of having a biomass burning power plant in the Tahoe Basin and/or jumped to false conclusions.
These professionals on the ground know that there are no benefits and that the project only burns up government funds that would be better used elsewhere. Because the Senator’s Office’s misunderstandings influence the opinions of the public, they want us to respectfully communicate this to her office in order to correct the misperceptions and misunderstandings.
The local fire professionals believe, as do we and many others, that her office and its staff do not understand that having a biomass plant in the Basin will do nothing to reduce forest fuels, wildfires, and open burning of forest wastes. These are factually separate issues.
They believe, as do we and many others, that the Senator’s office does not know that ALL forest waste MUST be first transported out of the Basin to Cabin Creek, near Truckee, for drying, storage, and PROCESSING INTO BIOMASS FUEL before it is trucked elsewhere for burning.
Feinstein’s staff does not know, we presume, that for 16 years processed biomass fuel has been trucked from Cabin Creek to Loyalton, outside the Basin in Sierra County, for burning at the biomass plant there. They don’t know that having a plant in Kings Beach simply means that the processed fuel would be trucked back into the Basin for burning, thereby polluting the Basin, when it could be burned in Loyalton, or that a plant could be built at Cabin Creek, which is outside of the Basin.
And, Feinstein’s staff doesn’t know that if this plant is built they will have been on the wrong side of history for having supported a project that degraded the Basin and the lake – precisely the opposite of what they espouse as primary objectives.
To be clear, the Senator, along with Senator Boxer, represents what is essentially the 8th largest economy in the world (California) in the U.S. Senate. As a result, they have many matters to attend to. It is understandable, therefore, that she would be susceptible to skewed information passed to her in a very compact form by individuals who hold responsible governmental positions and may themselves have either been duped and/or perhaps have a vested interest in presenting a biased explanation to her and her staff regarding the plant and the Basin.
At the time of the uploading of this website we are seeking to engage Ms Banks and, by extension, the Senator so that they might have a more accurate and factual understanding of the troubling aspects of building this very unnecessary and polluting facility in the Tahoe Basin. Our preliminary contacts with Ms Banks have confirmed that this matter is very low on the Senator’s agenda and that when asked by constituents about the issue, the office simply refers people to Placer County for information.
Lastly, many of Feinstein’s objectives of protecting and preserving Lake Tahoe and Basin would be promoted if she could increase funding for TRPA in order to free it from having to fund itself so much with development fees. Properly funded and therefore more independent, it could perform the tasks commensurate with its mission and referenced by Judge Karlton in his decision discussed elsewhere in this website. We encourage her to not only continue to seek funding for the fire and forest specialists cited above, but also TRPA.