Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thurston County Board of Health Hears Biomass Reports

Thurston County Board of Health Hears Biomass Information

By Janine Gates

In the first of several work sessions, Thurston County Board of Health members, who also serve as the Thurston County Commissioners, today heard biomass related reports from several state agency representatives and the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA).

The commissioners, Cathy Wolfe, Sandra Romero, and Karen Valenzuela, adopted an ordinance in late December 2010 that created a year long moratorium on new biomass facilities in Thurston County. The moratorium was passed in response to citizen concerns and to give the commissioners time to research and learn about biomass issues. Biomass facilities are not currently addressed in Thurston County code.

The Thurston County moratorium on new biomass facilities is considered to be the first of its kind in the nation. The commissioners will conduct a public hearing on the county’s moratorium on Monday, February 7, 5:30 p.m., in Room 152.

The Evergreen State College (TESC), located in Thurston County, is proposing to build a biomass gasification facility. The TESC Sustainability Council is still in a feasibility phase but has taken an active role in pursuing, and has received, partial funding for the project.

For more information, see a December 21 article about the moratorium and other articles related to TESC's project at

Peter Moulton, bioenergy coordinator for the Washington State Department of Commerce, provided the board a statewide overview of biomass policy and bioenergy issues.

Representatives of the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) explained air quality permitting process and standards. Craig Partridge, policy director for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) gave an overview of DNR’s forest practices and its biomass initiative.

Sally Toteff, southwest regional director for the Washington State Department of Ecology and Chuck Matthews of Ecology's solid waste division, reviewed industrial storm water and water quality issues that could come into play during the county’s permitting process for a biomass facility.

When county planning director Scott Clark asked Toteff if Ecology has looked at HB 1081 and how it could influence the county’s moratorium, Toteff responded, “Let’s see if it moves…” then admitted that she wasn’t aware of the bill, or its senate companion legislation.

HB 1081, sponsored by Representative Jeff Morris (D-40), ensures that small alternative energy resource facilities are sited in a timely manner in local jurisdictions where there are no existing ordinances to permit these facilities, where applicable ordinances have not been updated in over ten years, or where ordinances have been adopted that impede the timely permitting of these facilities.

The bill had a hearing on January 18 in the House Committee on Technology and Energy & Communications and is scheduled for executive session on February 1. Its companion bill, SB 5228, sponsored by Senator Phil Rockefeller (D-23), is currently in the Senate Environment, Water & Energy Committee, and scheduled for a hearing on February 2.

At the conclusion of today’s Thurston County board of health work session, Jeremy Clark, county associate planner, told the audience observing the meeting that the state agency and ORCAA presentations will be posted on the county website at in about a week.

Future Biomass Meetings

Future county board of health work session meetings are scheduled in Room 280 at the Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Dr. SW in Olympia. The next regular board of health meeting is Tuesday, February 1, 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

On Wednesday, February 2, 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m., The Evergreen State College will have an opportunity to present information on its proposed facility. Several TESC Sustainability Council members and senior staff were in the audience today, observing the board's biomass work session.

On Thursday, February 3, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., a group called Concerned Citizens of Thurston County will have an opportunity to present information to the board. This group is specifically concerned with TESC's biomass gasification facility proposal.

Thurston County's moratorium also reopened its 2010-11 comprehensive plan amendment official docket. A 20 day public comment period is required prior to any additions to an official docket. The official docket public comment period will close on Monday, February 7, 2011 at the close of the commissioner's public hearing.

Written comments may be submitted in lieu of testimony. Submit written testimony to Thurston County Planning, attention: Jeremy Davis, until 4:00 P.M. on February 7th. More information is available in hard copy in the Thurston County Permit Assistance Center or online at

Thurston-Mason County Medical Society Weighs In On Biomass

In a letter dated January 14, to the Thurston County commissioners, Dr. Cole Mason, president of the Thurston - Mason County Medical Society, said that the society strongly supports the Thurston County moratorium on biomass facility development and construction. The letter states that the support represents over 400 physicians in Thurston and Mason counties.

“Proposed biomass incineration plants to produce energy have raised serious concerns about the immediate and long term health effects on the residents of Thurston and Mason Counties. There are already established effects on the public’s health when exposed to particulate matter pollution derived from biomass incineration,” says the letter.

In September 2010, the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) passed a resolution urging state and local governments to adopt policies that minimize health impacts when considering energy sources.

Other Biomass Legislation

Other biomass-related legislation is being proposed this session. A hearing of the Senate's Natural Resources & Marine Waters committee at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 27, will hear an update of forest biomass issues and forest practices leading to conversion of land for development purposes. SB 5273, DNR's aviation biofuel initiative, is also scheduled to be heard by the committee in Senate Hearing Room 2 of the J.A. Cherberg Building.

Legislative schedules are subject to change. To follow Washington State legislation, go to

For more information:

Concerned Citizens of Thurston County at

State Agency Biomass Related Websites:

Washington State Department of Commerce:

ORCAA: www.orcaa/woody-biomass-emissions-study

Washington Department of Natural Resources:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Goldmark Announces Aviation Biofuel at Biomass Conference

Above: Biomass protesters outside the Seattle Sheraton hotel today. Conference attendees paid between $495 - $895 to attend the Pacific West Biomass conference, which continues tomorrow.

By Janine Gates

Goldmark Announces Aviation Biofuel at Biomass Conference

While local biomass opponents staged a protest outside the Seattle Sheraton hotel this morning, Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark today announced his proposal for legislation establishing a Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forest biomass pilot project that would create jet fuel from wood waste.

Goldmark made the announcement during his keynote address to the Pacific West Biomass Conference in Seattle.

“Aviation biofuel is a product that can provide a renewable, locally grown energy source combining Washington’s forestry heritage and our technology future,” said Goldmark.

“The Forest Biomass Initiative has a unique opportunity to help new, efficient technologies get to the marketplace in a pragmatic and sustainable way. Finding a higher use for residual forest biomass will help maintain our working lands that provide so many other benefits to the public, like habitat and clean water.”

Boeing, the Port of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Commerce and Governor Chris Gregoire are all supportive of the effort.

In a press release issued today by DNR, Gregoire said, “Forest biomass represents an incredible opportunity to heat our homes, power our cities and fight climate change. Thanks to the hard work, groundbreaking research and leadership of so many, including Commissioner of Public Lands Goldmark, forest biomass may now fuel our airplanes. The opportunity to combine our cutting-edge aviation industry with the growing clean-energy industry will help create local jobs and show the world that we will continue to be a leader in the global economy."

Outside the hotel after Goldmark's address, a conference participant commented on Goldmark’s remarks.

“It was great as far as biojet fuel goes - last year the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) introduced the first specifications for the commercialization of jet fuel,” said Ron Kotrba, the editor of Biodefining Magazine, who came from North Dakota for the conference. Attendees included representatives of engineering companies, biomass equipment vendors and those who can facilitate biomass production.

Commenting on a group of biomass industry protesters gathered nearby, Kotrba said, “I think these protesters didn’t do their research because they’re talking about deforestation but what the biomass industry is about is using waste that would otherwise not be used or used for other purposes.”

Conference workshop tracks included the topic of higher education as a biomass industry catalyst. Representatives from the University of Washington, Bellingham Technical College, and Washington State University presented workshops.

The Evergreen State College (TESC) in Olympia is pursuing funding for its proposed biomass gasification facility, which is currently in a feasibility study phase.

At a meeting of the TESC Sustainability Council yesterday, members briefly discussed defining project boundaries for carbon emissions. The council will meet again next week. A date has not yet been set, according to Jason Wettstein, communications director for The Evergreen State College.

Above: Sheraton hotel security and Mason County Port Commissioner Jack Miles chat outside the Seattle Sheraton Hotel today.

Citizens from Thurston and Mason counties gathered outside the hotel during Goldmark’s speech, speaking through a megaphone, and handing out literature, protesting several proposed biomass facilities around the Olympic Pennisula.

In Thurston County, a biomass gasification facility is being proposed at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. In Mason County, a biomass facility that would produce electricity is proposed by Adage in Shelton.

Protesters outside today's conference included Mason County Port Commissioner Jack Miles, who is the only port commissioner on record against the Adage facility.

“Basically, we’re trying to educate the public on how bad this is going to be for all our communities,” said Miles. Last week, Miles filed an anti-harassment complaint in district court against the executive director of the Port of Shelton, John Dobson. Miles says he is being harassed for his position against Adage.

“Especially in light of the assassination attempt against the U.S. congresswoman in Arizona, I am even more concerned for my safety working against a large corporation and I’m taking these threats against me seriously…I am not doing this (protesting Adage) for my benefit. It is a matter of public health and safety above anything else,” said Miles.

“I didn’t come out against it until I educated myself about it…I will fight this until I’m no longer in office, and after I’m out of office.” Miles was first elected to his port commissioner position in 2005.

Regarding the recent Thurston County moratorium on biomass facilities imposed by the county commissioners, Miles says, “They got it right. Where is the due diligence of public officials in Mason County to see if this is a good fit for the community? It’s not….Our community never had an opportunity to study the issue - it was shoved down our throats. Mason County commissioners need to step up and recognize that this is not good for the community. Public health and safety is in jeopardy.”

Mason County residents Tom Davis and his wife, Amy, also traveled to Seattle today to make their views known. They held a “No Incinerators” sign.

“I’m here because my wife and I moved here from San Diego for the clean air and the forests. We feel that biomass is a giveaway of our natural resources and we think they are a predatory industry that preys on rural, economically depressed communities. Did you know that the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, and the World Health Organization are all against biomass? It’s because it produces 2.5 micron particle matter that goes directly into your lungs that can’t be filtered out,” said Davis.

Mason County residents gathered 3,200 signatures against the proposed Adage facility last year on a petition to the Port of Shelton and Mason County commissioners. The port and county commissions refused to allow an advisory ballot to ask the voters about the project.

The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA), an agency having regulatory and enforcement authority in six local counties, recently recommended a permit for Adage. There is a public hearing on January 31 at the Shelton Civic Center, 525 West Cota Street, at 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. about the recommendation. Go to for more information.

Citizens from Thurston County also attended the protest.

Pat Rasmussen, coordinator of the World Temperate Rainforest Network, has been active since last May in learning about the proposed biomass gasification facility at The Evergreen State College (TESC). The college, which is looking to be carbon neutral by 2020, is in a feasibility phase of the project, but has already received partial grant funding and is actively seeking state appropriations during the 2011 legislative session, which started yesterday.

“We’re fighting for our lives on this issue - biomass is the wrong way to go. I can feel it in my gut,” says Rasmussen.

"So far, DNR's carbon neutrality position is political, not scientific. When it gets peer-reviewed, it will be shown that it's based on politics." Rasmussen criticized Governor Chris Gregoire for being lobbied and mislead by Goldmark, and the biomass and timber industry.

"Gregoire needs to hear the science," said Rasmussen.

Editor’s Note: Despite being a card-carrying member of the National Writers Union (NWU) and showing an international press card issued by the International Federation of Journalists, this reporter was denied entry to the conference by the coordinators, BBI International, and prevented from hearing Peter Goldmark’s keynote speech first-hand. This reporter was also ushered off the property of the Seattle Sheraton hotel while speaking with a conference participant while he was outside the hotel. Janine Gates would like to thank Ron Kotrba, editor of Biorefining Magazine, for continuing our interview after being ushered to a public sidewalk by security members of the hotel.

For more information on local biomass issues, see other articles at

Other sources include and

Above: Biomass protesters receive a visit from one of Seattle finest, Officer L.M. Cook. There were no problems - she just stopped by to ask them to not take pictures while standing in traffic and to keep the sidewalk clear.