Biomass incinerator stirs controversy in Florida

by Antonio Pasolini on September 1, 2010


A trial held last week in Gainesville, Florida, pits anti-biomass opponents against the state and an out-of-state company.

Citizens are challenging a state agency approval of Gainesville Renewable Energy Center incinerator, being proposed by the Massachusetts based international joint venture, American Renewables, LLC.

The coalition is led by Dr. Thomas Bussing, former mayor of Gainesville, who intervened to enter testimony in the trial in order to prevent harm to human health and the environment from the incinerator.

The GREC incinerator will burn trees to make electricity. Opponents assert that local residents, particularly children, will suffer harm from the toxic emissions generated by burning wood at the Gainseville site.

Dr. Ron Saff, a medical doctor from Tallahassee, Florida who specializes in asthma, provided deposition testimony in the case. According to Dr. Saff, the pollution from biomass plants causes asthma and heart attacks, cancer, shortens lives and poses a health risk to Gainesville residents.

According to the GREC permit application and the citizen petition, air pollutants from the incinerator will include particulate matter, including PM 2.5, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), acid gases, sulfur compounds, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, PCBs and dioxin-like compounds. Opponents say the incinerator will violate state laws prohibiting objectionable odors, poses a risk of fires in the wood chip piles, and will emit dangerous greenhouse gases.

American Renewables says a study by an independent forestry consultant confirmed that “fuel resources within this radius are more than adequate to fuel the project. GREC will comply with the Florida Division of Forestry Best Management Practices, and has agreed to additional standards to foster improved nutrient retention and overall forest health.”

The record of the hearing can be viewed here.

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