2010 March 25: WI Rothschild (Wausau area): Neighbors oppose biomass plant 2010 March 26: WI Rothschild: Rothschild biomass plant opponents fear ‘monster’ pollution source (AUDIO)

2010 March 25: WI Rothschild (Wausau area): Neighbors oppose biomass plant

Power plant opponents

Rob Hughes of Rothschild listens as residents speak out against a proposed $250 million woody biomass power plant in the village.

ROTHSCHILD, Wis. (WSAU) – Neighbors against plans for a $250 million woody biomass plant in Rothschild voiced concerns over emissions, air quality levels and increased traffic at a public meeting Thursday night.
About 100 residents attended the meeting at village hall led by a group of neighborhood volunteers. While most supported the group’s efforts to block the plant, at least one man questioned some of the statistics opponents used.
Neighbors fear the 50-megawatt plant will double the level of particulate matter, which they say could cause harmful health effects like asthma and lung cancer.
“The emissions from this plant are going to adversely affect the health of everyone in the Wausau metro area,” said Paul Schwantes, who is a part of the opposition.
But We Energies, the utility proposing the plant, says the overall project will reduce emissions by 30 percent.
“The DNR will not permit our project unless it’s in compliance and would not be creating any health concern,” said utility spokesman Brian Manthey.
Schwantes wants neighbors to contact the village board and state Public Service Commission, which has final authority, to lobby against the plant.
We Energies has met with opponents at least twice and has drafted an 11-page response to questions, Manthey said. The utility has also hosted a community open house and will continue to reach out to residents.
The plant would burn wood waste that comes from sawmills and loggers within a 75-mile radius. The plant would also provide steam to the Domtar paper mill in Rothschild.
If the state approves the project, We Energies could start construction next year.

Neighbor opposition

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  • 2010 March 26: WI Rothschild: Rothschild biomass plant opponents fear ‘monster’ pollution source

By Robert Imrie • Wausau Daily Herald • March 26, 2010

ROTHSCHILD — A proposed power plant that would burn wood to generate electricity and steam would be a "monster" source of pollution, causing neighbors to suffer from asthma and lung cancers, organizers of an effort to kill the project said Thursday.

The planned $255 million We Energies plant on the grounds of the Domtar paper mill along Business Highway 51 would burn waste wood to power the mill and generate electricity for consumers.
"We don’t want to be their guinea pigs," Paul Schwantes told about 150 people packed into a room at the Village Hall, urging them to contact local political leaders. "This is a call to action. Tell them you do not want this project in our backyard."
Schwantes said he was disappointed that only about 150 people in a village of 5,000 turned out to get more information about a "huge issue" in town.
He said he had been prepared to move the meeting to the much bigger Rothschild Pavilion in anticipation of a larger crowd.
We Energies has applied to the state Public Service Commission to build Wisconsin’s first biomass plant in Rothschild. A decision is expected by the end of the year, said Brian Manthey, a spokesman for the Milwaukee-based utility.
The project would allow We Energies, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corp., to comply with a state mandate that 10 percent of Wisconsin’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015.
In a telephone interview after the meeting Thursday, Manthey said the plant should not produce any more risk of asthma or lung cancers in the village, because the emissions will fall "well under" the state Department of Natural Resources standards for clean air.
Rob Hughes, a father of a 6-month-old daughter and one of the meeting organizers, warned that the new plant would be built less than half a mile from an elementary school and pour out pollutants harmful to children.
"Google ‘asthma’ and ‘particulate matter,’" he said. "We don’t want monster, major sources of pollution."
According to We Energies, the Domtar mill now annually releases 644 tons of air pollutants.

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We Energy estimates those emissions — including nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particles of wood ash — actually would drop to 457 tons once the biomass plant begins operating.

But Hughes said those emission statistics are misleading because the new plant would emit 46 tons of fine particles of wood ash annually — more than double what is being released now — and that so-called particulate matter was the most harmful to breathe, especially for children and the elderly.
The plant would "reduce the big stuff that causes acid rain but increase the big stuff that causes asthma and other lung problems," Hughes said.
The technology being proposed is too new to trust as safe for the long term, the father said. The Massachusetts Medical Society has opposed three large biomass plants planned in that state, he told the crowd.
Another concern is diesel fumes from the dozens of trucks that would be hauling wood to the plant, Hughes said. The plant will burn 500,000 tons of wood a year, requiring 75 truckloads daily, Manthey said.
Hughes and Schwantes said it makes no sense for people in Rothschild to risk their health because the plant really isn’t needed.
"There is no energy shortage," Hughes said.
No one from We Energies spoke at the meeting.
Schwantes said the five-member Village Board of Appeals can scuttle the project because We Energies needs local approval for a 250-foot-tall smokestack on the plant.
"It’s a major source of hazardous air pollution for energy we don’t use or need," Schwantes said. "In my opinion, this is ridiculous. This is absurd. This is insanity."

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