"The comments we received spanned a wide range - from full support to complete opposition," said Laurie Davies, manager for the Ecology program overseeing the mill's air and water permits. "Ecology's job was to thoroughly evaluate the mill's project and the public's feedback to decide if the project complies with current environmental requirements. We did and found no reason to deny this project."
The notice of construction order allows the mill to move ahead with plans to install a new steam turbine and upgrade power boiler 10. After the project is complete, the boiler's primary fuel source will be wood, including forest biomass. The order also sets more stringent pollution limits for the upgraded boiler than the mill's current limit. Right now, the mill primarily burns oil and wood to fuel power boiler 10.
The proposed boiler improvement is considered a modification, and the boiler will have improved air pollution controls. Ecology evaluated the project using current state and federal laws to determine appropriate emission limits.
The analysis shows the system upgrades will decrease certain air pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. There will be some increases in carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds emissions.
Davies said some who commented were concerned about carbon dioxide emission increases and had many questions about the use of biomass.
State and federal laws will soon require reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide from the burning of forest biomass. In addition, federal requirements are expected next year that could require greenhouse gas emissions to be included in some air permits. However, even if those future requirements as currently understood were in effect today, the upgraded boiler wouldn't generate enough carbon dioxide to trigger more stringent permit requirements.
Davies explained that the state requires the development and use of "renewable" energy sources, and encourages the use of forest biomass. Under state law, industrial combustion of forest biomass is considered carbon neutral so long as the state's forestry resources are being maintained or enhanced. According to the Department of Natural Resources, Washington's forests continue to be a "net sink" of carbon dioxide.
There is a 30-day window for appeal of Ecology's decision. Appeals should be filed with the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.