The Controversy Continues – Debate Behind Co-Gen Plant Topic of Upcoming Planning Board Meeting (click “Local News”)
ELLICOTTVILLE – The current edition of The Villager informs us that the issue of the proposed biomass energy plant in the 242/219 area will be discussed at the upcoming August 28, 2006 Planning Board meeting. The public is invited to attend and listen; however, this is not a public hearing.
If you are not familiar with the issue, here is the rundown: Laidlaw Energy, Inc. wants to “convert the former natural gas power plant on-site into a co-generation plant, burning clean wood chips for electricity.” Laidlaw claims:
…Aside from the production of green energy and the creation of a significant number of well-paying jobs, the conversion of this facility to wood biomass will eliminate the use of approximately 350 million cubic feet of natural gas per annum and neutralize the production of green house gases by the facility.
All wood biomass utilized by the Facility will be “clean, source separated, unadulterated wood waste”, consistent with New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations. Such clean wood waste will mainly be comprised of ground pallets, whole tree chips, wood residue from local furniture manufacturers and other similar forms of wood waste. LLEG has worked closely with DEC during the development process of the fuel conversion project in order to ensure compliance with all applicable state and Federal environmental regulations.
In the case of the Ellicottville facility, conversion to wood biomass will dramatically reduce the facility’s operating costs, while allowing for increased electric capacity and the production of heat and steam for kiln drying hardwood at highly competitive prices. LLEG believes this strategy can be replicated in order to convert other facilities rendered uneconomic by high fossil fuel prices or as an alternative to coal generation, which can often result in significant hazardous emissions.
The area certainly could use additional well-paying jobs, and renewable energy strategies are needed not only for New York State, but also for our country as well. However, is the Laidlaw proposal a good addition for Ellicottville?
There has been an outpouring of concern from the local community. The article in The Villager provides a sampling of letters from local residents, business owners, developers, and the Town Board. Their concerns range from health considerations; long-term sustainability; environmental concerns; visual, economic, recreational and residental impacts; and vehicle traffic concerns.
While the future of the co-generation plant in Ellicottville remains a real possibility, the newly developed “Citizens for a Better Ellicottville” support group continues to dig deep for the truth of Laidlaw’s intentions. According to the group, the following air contaminants and hazardous air pollutants will be released annually from the plant: Nitrogen Oxide-111 tons, Sulfur Dioxide-9 tons, Particulate Matter-4 tons, Carbon Monoxide-111 tons, Volatile Organic Compounds-18 tons and Hazardous Air Pollutants (including Benzene, Formaldehyde and Hydrogen Chloride)-19 tons.
In an area where temperature inversions and foggy conditions are frequent occurances, having the above emissions contributing to the air quality could provide a negative effect upon the community. A plan such as Laidlaw’s might work out well in a different type of a geographical area; I have concerns that this particular valley may not be a good fit for such a plan.