Proposed Biomass Energy Facility Likely to Improve Air Quality Reduce Risk of Wildfire HIA Finds

Proposed Biomass Energy Facility Likely to Improve Air Quality Reduce Risk of Wildfire HIA Finds

GRANTEE NEWS

CONTACT:
Kristen Nelson
Sequoia Foundation
858-459-0434
[email protected]

Placer County— The proposed Cabin Creek Biomass Energy Facility will likely improve community health through improvements in air quality and reductions in risks from wildfires, an independent health impact assessment (HIA) found. The Sequoia  Foundation, a public health research nonprofit, conducted the HIA, which looked at air quality, wildfires, traffic, water quality, noise, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic and energy security. The purpose of the study was to take an independent and objective look at both the positive and negative aspects of a biomass facility.

Read more about this HIA

Placer County is proposing a biomass energy facility in an effort to reduce wildfire risk. Wildfire as a threat to people is ranked as ‘very high’ in the Lake Tahoe region. The biomass facility would turn wood biomass into energy. It would have gasification technologies, which use extremely high temperatures to produce a fuel similar to natural gas. The wood to supply the facility would be solely “woody biomass” derived from maintenance and restoration activities from nearby forestland within a 30-mile radius and wood residuals from forest fuels reduction and defensible space activities that would otherwise be burned in open piles. The Placer County Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) states that there is enough woody biomass within a 30-mile radius to power facility for 40 years, the projected lifespan of the facility. The objectives for this facility, as stated in the EIR, are to improve regional air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to open pile burning of biomass waste and support of healthy forest management practices designed to reduce catastrophic wildfire risks.

“This health impact assessment by the Sequoia Foundation is to be applauded for its independent, third-party analysis,” said Placer County Fifth District Supervisor and Chairwoman of the Board, Jennifer Montgomery, whose district includes the site of the proposed facility. “The issues reviewed in the assessment were submitted by community residents who live in the surrounding fire-prone areas. The report’s findings will not only inform those local communities, but other communities across the country that are considering similar alternative energy technologies.”

The Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee facilitated three community meetings around the proposed facility. Local residents shared their concerns about the biomass facility, and the HIA team included those issues in their assessment.

“The HIA  process allowed us to learn about local community concerns, so we could address them in a systematic way. Issues such as economic and energy security, water quality, and traffic would likely have not been assessed in this HIA if community members had not expressed these as concerns at community meetings,” said HIA Program Manager Bindi Gandhi of Sequoia Foundation.

The key recommendations Sequoia Foundation included in the HIA are:
1) The County should develop a communications plan between residents and facility operators to address air quality and noise concerns.
2) The Placer County Air Pollution Control District should increase the number of surprise on-site inspections.
3) The County should prioritize the hiring of local contractors for both facility construction and operation.

The Placer County Planning Commission will be considering the proposed Cabin Creek Biomass Energy Facility minor use permit on Dec. 20, 2012 at Planning Commission Chambers, 3091 County Center Dr, Auburn, CA 95603.

This HIA is supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The views expressed are those of the Sequoia Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Latest from The Health Impact Project

The front facade of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC.
ian-hutchinson-U8WfiRpsQ7Y-unsplash.jpg_master

Agenda for America

A collection of resources to help federal, state, and local decision-makers set an achievable agenda for all Americans

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for emerging challenges, it makes government more effective and better able to serve the public interest. In the coming months, President Joe Biden and the 117th Congress will tackle a number of environmental, health, public safety, and fiscal and economic issues—nearly all of them complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help solve specific, systemic problems in a nonpartisan fashion, Pew has compiled a series of briefings and recommendations based on our research, technical assistance, and advocacy work across America.

Lightbulbs
Lightbulbs

States of Innovation

Data-driven state policy innovations across America

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for difficult challenges. When states serve their traditional role as laboratories of innovation, they increase the American people’s confidence that the government they choose—no matter the size—can be effective, responsive, and in the public interest.