Wash. pollution board rules in favor of biomass project

By Luke Geiver | January 24, 2012

A $71 million combined-heat-and-power (CHP) project under construction at Port Angeles, Wash., received good news from the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board this month. In a case of Nippon Paper Industries USA versus several environmentally focused organizations, including Olympic Environmental Council, PT AirWatchers and No Biomass Burn, the PCHB ruled in favor of Nippon’s construction permit.

The ruling came as a summary judgment, a procedure that helps avoid unnecessary trials when the complaints cannot be factually supported. The judgment ruled in favor of Nippon Paper on four separate issues that dealt with emissions data the opposition group deemed inaccurate.

Nippon’s pulp and paper mill in Port Angeles now is on a clear path for its retrofit. The company will install a new biomass boiler to meet all of the mill’s steam needs, while also driving a steam turbine generator to produce 20 MW of power for sale to the grid. The facility currently operates using a No. 8 boiler that burns oil, dewatered sludge and biomass.

The PCHB decision was in response to opponents’ concerns about Nippon’s July 2010 air permit request form. But, according to the PCHB, Nippon’s air permit submission included an extensive and technical document prepared by an environmental consultant, and included six sections, six appendices and multiple tables and figures. The document also included a separate section on technology and the available and suitable choices for particular pollutants. The consultant for Nippon identified control technologies while also eliminating infeasible options, according to the PCHB.

After the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) approved the application, the opposing parties challenged in part, that Nippon was not using the best available technology to control (BACT) certain pollutants. “Appellants contend that the BACT analysis prepared by Nippon’s consultant, and reviewed by ORCAA was insufficient because it did not employ the common, but admittedly not required ‘top down’ methodology,” according to a PCHB document outlining its decision. The PCHB also stated that Nippon did in fact use the best available technology as the technology review supplied by Nippon explained, also noting that such “top down” methodology is not required.

The opposition now has until Feb. 3 to appeal the ruling. A group consisting of many of the same organizations is also working to appeal a Port Townsend $55 million biomass project, led by Nippon. To view the Pollution Control Hearing Board’s decision in its entirety, click here