Placer County’s Rationale for Locating the Facility in the

Tahoe Basin and Why it is Nonsense

 

It is at this junction, in our judgment, that the half truths, outright falsehoods, and errors of omission (forms of political deception) become particularly egregious on the part of Placer County.  Placer County would prefer that no one knows about the Loyalton Biomass Power Plant and what has been going on with Basin produced forest waste for 16 years.  (That it is gathered around the Basin, trucked to Cabin Creek just south of Truckee, dried, processed, and then trucked to Loyalton for burning.)   Moreover, they blur topics in terms of apples and oranges versus apples and apples. Pay close attention to the language of Placer’s FAQ regarding the plant below [passages underlined for emphasis].

http://www.placer.ca.gov/Departments/CommunityDevelopment/Planning/Biomass/~/media/cdr/Planning/Biomass/TBPP_FAQ_20100106.ashx

 

Reduction in air and water pollution – The reduction of open burning of woody biomass piles, reduction in the decomposition of chipped material and slash piles left unburned in the forest, as well as shortening of diesel truck transport distance will all result in significant reduction of air and water pollutants. The current practice of open burning and in‐forest decay of woody biomass piles results in uncontrolled and significant emissions of air pollutants which can severely degrade the local and regional air quality and deposit particulate matter into the lake.

 

Reduced fire danger – The renewable energy facility would require coordination of all the various defensible space/forest thinning efforts with a focus on the removal/thinning. This would enable the Tahoe Basin’s forests to become significantly more resistant to catastrophic wildfire.

 

Removal of forest waste – Coordination of removal/thinning activities would provide assurance that woody biomass waste is processed and utilized locally. This will eliminate or greatly reduce diesel truck transport (of biomass resources) to distant power facilities, and the openburning in piles or chipping within the forest and left to rot, as currently practiced, of valuable biomass resources.

 

Essentially, a major argument of Placer County, if not the major argument, is that it will save money because it “will eliminate or greatly reduce diesel truck transport (of biomass resources) to distant power facilities.”  In addition, it will curtail “open burning” and reduce “in forest decay.”  And, of course, it will also make the forests “more resistant to catastrophic wildfire.”

 

This is nonsense!

 

First, in terms of the matter of diesel: 

 

The practice of trucking biomass materials to Cabin Creek (well outside of the Basin) for drying and processing into fuel shall continue under the new proposal.  The difference is that instead of trucking it 42 miles to Loyalton, it would now be trucked 17 miles back into the Basin, over Highway 267 for burning.  The difference of 25 miles bears little on the cost of hauling a 25 ton load of ready to burn fuel.  Plus, this would increase the pollution from diesel in the Basin.

 

Additionally, if the idea were to save fuel costs then the ideal place to build

 the plant would be at Cabin Creek and avoid the expense of additional trucking  

 altogether.

 

It should also be pointed out that diesel fuel costs can be passed on to the consumer – a standard posture for both business and government in such situations.  Placer County need not enter into a public/private venture and place a plant in the Basin to save a few pennies on diesel fuel.  One can be rather certain that home owners and residents in the Basin would opt for a minor rate increase vis-ŕ-vis a polluting plant.

 

Secondly, in terms of open burning, forest decay, and wildfires:

 

The forests are already thinned, waste removed, and open burning kept to a minimum – limited only to that which cannot be accessed and trucked out.  Locating a biomass plant in the Basin versus Loyalton will not alter this situation.  Nor will it alter the steps currently underway to avoid wildfires. 

 

Thirdly, please note the following regarding the topic of open biomass burning versus controlled biomass burning (this is a very significant point): 

 

Much is written about open burning versus controlled biomass combustion.  The argument is that open burning of biomass materials pollutes more than biomass burning at a facility.  And, the fact is that this is overwhelmingly true.  No one debates this issue.  Placer County has repeatedly pushed this theme and one sees their graphs scattered here and there in other studies illustrating this point.  Even the EIR is going to examine this comparison in detail as if it has some bearing on putting a power plant in the Basin. They often show the difference in the pollutants produced by a ton of material burned openly in contrast to a facility.  The connection they are trying to make is that the facility vastly reduces air pollution when, in reality the opposite is the case.  The comparison is fallaciously incoherent in that one does not follow the other (non sequitur).

 

Very little biomass is burned openly in the Basin, as the reader knows; it is hauled away for burning elsewhere.  The plan, however, is to have the Kings Beach facility burn all the waste from within a 30 mile radius 24/7, 365 days a year.  To compare the current negligible level of occasional open burning in the Basin with what is planned for the plant, thereby suggesting a reduction of pollution is, while a clever and deceptive ploy, is ludicrous. 

 

For example, the equivalent of less than 1000 cords of lodgepole pine is burned by the Kings Beach community annually, and consumption has been declining as stoves have become more efficient.  The proposed plant will burn the heat equivalent of about 24,000 cords of pine per year.   The biomass plant may be qualitatively cleaner than open burning but quantitatively disastrous.   And, occasional open burning will continue in spite of the plant.