Supervisors uphold biomass decision; neighbors irked

Further frustrating a roomful of residents who will one day stand in their back yards and look over at a biomass-wood fired boiler, the Carson City Board of Supervisors supported the renewable energy project Thursday - with an extra stipulation that the developer seeks to cut the emissions by half.

Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira, who cast the tie-breaking vote, said setting a standard in the reduction of particulate emissions will provide the people with a better product.

"This is a good project," he said. "It's a huggable project. The state is putting in something that saves them money. But, doggone it, we have a responsibility to the people. We're not asking for the moon, we're asking for a better project."

The group of Carson City residents that appealed the May decision by planning commissioners to approve a small-scale biomass at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center argue that 253 pounds of particulate matter would be released into the air daily from the biomass smoke stack.

They advocated for some type of technology that would reduce this by 90 percent, but what type of technology was hotly contested between both groups.

The 1-megawatt, woodchip-burning power plant would provide the bulk of the prison's power, using wood taken from Sierra Nevada forest-thinning projects for fuel. Prison officials estimate the plant would save the state $3 million in today's dollars over its 20- to 30-year life span.

The plan is supported by state forestry officials and fire safety advocates who say it's the best way to dispose of harvested wood unsuitable for lumber.

Supervisor Richard Staub made the motion that didn't completely satisfy either side. Those opposed to the biomass, about 50 neighbors who retained their own lawyer, wanted a guarantee from the developer that the emissions would be reduced by 90 percent. The engineer working on the project said he was hard pressed to deliver even a 30 percent reduction.

"I think it's on the way," Conte Drive resident Doug Minter said about the decision. "But the (developer's) engineer is saying that it's not obtainable. But they're not pulling the wool over our eyes. Their engineers would (reduce nearly all emissions) if they wanted to spend the money. We're paying for it anyway, so what's the problem?"

Supervisors Robin Williamson and Shelly Aldean cast the two opposing votes. Both supervisors said they support renewable energy, but Williamson said she lacked the emission expertise to know if the 50 percent reduction in emissions is attainable.

Even though the mayor sided with Staub and Supervisor Pete Livermore, casting what he called a vote that will make it harder on the biomass developer, Teixeira said this is a confusing issue and "we don't know what the hell we're doing up here.

"What we're trying to do is the right thing."

The decision still didn't sit well with Gentry Lane resident Janet Johnson.

"I oppose this project 100 percent with or without conditions," she said. "It seems to me that the constituency has said 'no,' so why are we voting 'yes' for the project that the people say 'no' to? All the mitigation isn't going to change the fact that this is polluting the air."

- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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