So, What is the Real Reason for Locating the Plant Inside rather than Outside the Basin?  Because it has Clean Air that can be Polluted.


On June 1, 2007, a workshop was held at the North Tahoe Convention Center regarding biomass power development.  Funded by the Governors’ Association, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) contracted with the Sierra Economic Development Corporation (a consulting firm located in Auburn) to guide the project / study.  In January of 2008, they published the results their “Reno/Tahoe Biomass Supply and Demand Study.”


One of the conclusions of the study reached was:  “In the long term, the County (Placer) hopes to have biomass facilities in other County locations.  Because the County is not within federal air quality attainment standards outside the Tahoe Basin it would be difficult to build any type of power plant outside the Tahoe Basin.” (p. 52)


The point is that since a biomass plant does, indeed, pollute, the only air clean enough to allow for additional polluting in Placer County is in the Tahoe Basin. 


What about Cabin Creek and Clean Air? 


While it makes sense that if one isn’t willing to truck biomass to Loyalton then a plant should be built at Cabin Creek, it is also true that there would be problems obtaining EPA permission to do so.  That does not mean, however, that it couldn’t happen. 


According to Tom Christofk, Placer County’s Air Pollution Control Officer, Cabin Creek's lack of attainment for ozone thresholds does not entirely preclude the site from consideration. “You have to look at the different requirements of each air basin,” he said. “If a basin is in extreme non-attainment, there is a different threshold of permitting, which would require better control technologies and off-setting procedures,” he said.  Christofk said an example is Los Angeles, which has long exceeded federal air quality standards, but is able to erect electricity facilities if enough air quality mitigation occurs. “It's all taken care of during the permitting process,” he said.  The proposed site in Kings Beach is located within the Lake Tahoe Air Basin, which is currently in ozone attainment according to federal standards, according to Christofk.  (Mathew Renda, Sierra Sun, September 16, 2010)


As far as we are concerned, we believe this puts Cabin Creek back on the table as a biomass facility site outside the Basin and coincides with Placer’s avowed wish to reduce diesel costs.  


An additional argument in favor of locating the biomass plant at Cabin Creek is that it could generate the electricity needed to operate the grinder and other processing machinery located there for processing thereby replacing the current diesel (and fumes) used to run the machines and charge battery operated vehicles.  This would allow for precisely the air quality offset of the type that EPA encourages. 


Clean Air and the Jurisdictional Matter of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE):


As stated elsewhere in this web site and repeated here for emphasis, were a plant to be built outside the Basin, EPA guidelines would have to be met.  This could be “difficult” as the aforementioned study states  (Reno/Tahoe Biomass Supply and Demand Study).  This is not, however, the case regarding the Basin.  The Basin is governed by TRPA, a federal agency that has greater authority than a state or a county.  However, given the peculiar jurisdiction of TRPA, EPA would have to be “invited” by TRPA to participate in any environmental impact study regarding a plant.  While it is mandatory outside the Basin, it is optional and at the discretion of TRPA inside the Basin.  The reader can see how this would be attractive to Placer County from a permitting standpoint.


Therefore, if Placer County, while supposedly subordinate to TRPA’s federal authority, has more power than TRPA, then it can practically dictate to TRPA what shall or shall not happen in its region of the Tahoe Basin.  And, sadly, for economic reasons, the authority and therefore the power of TRPA have greatly eroded over time to a level where the four counties and the City of South Lake Tahoe sitting on TRPA’s board exert undue influence.  Remember, the counties are charged with the responsibility to enforce many of TRPA determinations.  That gives the counties a great deal of leverage.  As a consequence, we do not anticipate EPA involvement at a level that one would find outside the Basin, if at all.  While TRPA is responsible for the impact study and its oversight, the contractual agreement between TRPA and Placer is that Placer will pay TRPA from its DOE grants for the study.  They are in tandem with the proposal with TRPA on paper in charge but Placer County is actually in control.


Again, this reflects the dysfunctional operation of agencies charged with governance in and of the Basin.  TRPA is underfunded and collects 50% of its revenues from fees associated with development and related activities.  This automatically puts them in a conflict of interest with their mission to protect the Basin from runaway development often pushed and sponsored by counties.  Developers who want profits from developing Tahoe can make major contributions to candidates for the Boards of Supervisors in each county in the Basin and the City of South Lake Tahoe.  And, they can then press TRPA (through the voting members of TRPA Governing Board which they appoint) to acquiesce to poorly planned but very profitable developments.  This generates revenue for both the counties and TRPA.  For TRPA to be able to function in the manner intended and protect the Basin, it needs additional state and/or federal funding to free it from developers and counties.