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Groups file suit against Nippon co-generation permit

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by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

Seven peninsula environmental organizations have jointly filed suit in Thurston County Superior Court to stop the progress of the wood-burning co-generation plant now being built at the Nippon Paper Industries’ paper mill in Port Angeles.

 

In the suit they say the air permit issued by the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency fails to require Best Available Control Technology (BACT) “for at least three health-damaging components” that will be released by the burner.

 

“Charged with protecting human health, ORCAA should have known that Nippon’s proposed controls for nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, (CO), and volatile organic compounds, (VOCs) were not the best available, which are required by the Clean Air Act,” the appellants said in a statement announcing the suit.

 

This week Harold Norlund, manager of the Nippon plant, responded, saying his company met every condition imposed by ORCAA and that construction of the project is moving ahead.

 

“It’s a busy worksite,” he said.

 

Nippon officials have said the company will spend $71 million expanding its boiler operations. When the project is completed, the plant will generate steam to power the facility’s operations and produce up to 20 megawatts of saleable electrical energy. While noting there are many factors to consider, Milt Fyre, president of Resource Management Associates, Inc., said that should power between 4,000 and 8,000 houses. RMA is an Oregon firm that specializes in providing engineering services to electric utilities and forest industries.

In the public’s interest

“Filing suit is our only option when the public agencies charged with protecting our health don’t act in the greater public’s best interest,” said Crystal Tack, a Sequim-based health care practitioner. “Health professionals have proven that nanoparticles like those from biomass incinerators are very dangerous to our health. Releasing even more into the atmosphere will turn our communities into science experiments for which, ironically, we taxpayers are footing the bill.”

 

The appellants said Nippon’s plans to generate electricity by burning wood included assurances that the company would provide state-of-the-art systems “to control the noxious gases and health-damaging particles it would release.”

 

They say Nippon has failed to do so.

 

Nippon and ORCAA officials beg to differ.

 

Norlund said his company met every requirement of the law. “Look at ORCAA’s website. You’ll see the final permit where they’ve stipulated that what was required for the permit was met.”

 

Mark Goodin, an engineer with ORCAA, agreed that Nippon met the requirements of the law. “Nippon is using BACT,” he said. “That’s one of the requirements for approval. We won’t approve anything unless it meets BACT.”

 

Norlund said the lawsuit hasn’t slowed progress at the mill. “The structural walls (for the co-generator) were poured this week,” he said. “That’s 50 to 60 trucks of concrete.”

 

He said the foundation will be in place by April, with boiler construction to begin in May.

BACT in fact?

The appellants say that in issuing the permit, ORCAA “ignored evidence that showed how some of the potentially toxic pollutants ... could be reduced by applying BACT, which Nippon assured community leaders would be used when it applied for permission to build the facility.”

 

Bob Lynette, co-chairman of the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club, said, “Over the last eight years, NOx, CO and VOC controls far more advanced than what Ecology authorized in the Nippon ... air permit have been in use on biomass plants in New England and, more recently, Texas.”

 

Lynette said the BACT for NOx is regenerative selective catalytic reduction (RSCR), while the BACT for CO and VOC is oxidation catalyst integrated into the RSCR housing.

 

“It is routine to specify RSCR as BACT for the NOx control system and oxidation catalyst as BACT for CO and VOC emissions on stoker boilers because it is technically feasible, commercially available and cost effective.”

 

The suit was filed by Protect the Peninsula’s Future, Olympic Environmental Council, North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club, Olympic Forest Coalition, Port Townsend Air Watchers, No Biomass Burn and World Temperate Rainforest Network.

 

Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

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