Banned or Blocked Biomass Incinerators

Leigh Touchton responds to Brad Lofton’s letter of 22 September 2010. WACE is Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy; more on that new organization later.


From: Leigh Touchton
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 2010 20:04:48 -0400
Subject: Mr. Lofton once again misrepresents the facts
Cc:, [and the VDT and some elected officials and other interested parties]

Dear WACE:

1. Mr. Lofton stated: “Despite what Mrs. Touchton stated, we’ve been in touch with the Massachusetts and Florida EPD, and in no way, shape, or form is either state banning biomass facilities. In fact, there are 15 scheduled now for New England, many in Mass, and a number in Florida. There have been discussions regarding the level of incentives (tax credits) allowed, but no moratorium. We’ll be happy to share our contacts with you.”

I would like for Mr. Lofton to share his contacts with WACE. Because previously his contacts at the Sierra Club were misrepresented by him. Sierra Club does NOT endorse Biomass Incineration, neither does any other major environmental organization in America.

I would also like Mr. Lofton to share his private email list of stakeholders with WACE, in particular the investors, because I would like to share some information with them. I expect transparency in our public officials and his refusal to address my letter to the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times in the same newspaper in which it was published does not lead me to believe that he is operating in good faith. I am very disturbed that any public official would state that they did not want to “energize a forum for misinformation” regarding published concerns in the local newspaper. Mr. Lofton has a duty to respond to all citizens’ concerns publicly. I am very disturbed that he thought he could privately email a group about my published letter to the editor and that the first I learned of it was nearly a month after he did so. And no, I still don’t wish to have a private telephone conversation with him or a private meeting with him, I’ve been reading all the public documents that have resulted from his supposed lengthy due diligence period. As I stated, the first I learned of this proposed biomass incinerator was when the EPD called for public comments. Mr. Lofton and Councilman James Wright were both invited to the June Women in the NAACP meeting and neither man showed up so I don’t really care to engage in who didn’t return whose phone calls. Additionally he could have made contact with the schools and churches in the area, or attended an SCLC or NAACP meeting but he did not. All our our meetings are open to the public, unlike his private list of stakeholders.

Here’s one internet article on the moratorium in Massachusetts.
Here’s another article on the ban in Massachusetts.
Here’s another on the banning of new incinerators in Massachusetts that started 19 years ago.

What is going on today is that these same companies are trying the old “razzle-dazzle” approach to convince the public that these new plants are safe and green when they are not, and they are currently trying to rewrite existing legislation to have themselves accepted as something “new” when they are just the same thing with a greener sounding name. They are also taking advantage of the Obama adminstration’s tax incentives for this kind of incinerator, a presidential policy which environmentalists nationwide oppose.

Here’s an article on the upcoming Massachusetts November elections at which the current Biomass ban may become a permanent ban, courtesy of voter referendum.

What I said about Florida was that they had been blocked. There is a difference in the definitions of the words blocked and banned. Here’s an article on the Gretna, Florida, biomass incinerator that was blocked.
Here’s an article on the Gainesville Biomass plant that is currently in litigation and temporarily blocked. (

2. Mr. Lofton stated: “We are not spending $110 million in taxpayer’s money to build this facility. The funding is private and financed by Wiregrass Power, LLC. We’ve read this in circulated e-mails Mrs. Touchton has authored. In fact, our facility is actually paying substantial dollars per year to the community.”

What I actually stated was this: “Over 40 of these kinds of plants are currently closed, after their respective communities paid millions of dollars to build them. ( ” Mr. Lofton can equivocate all he wants over “the funding is private” when all of us know that putative green energy (greenwashed technology) is currently getting massive federal and state subsidies, and that is why under the Obama administration these kinds of plants are cropping up all over the place, and just as quickly getting shut down all over the place. Government subsidies are not the same thing as “private funding”. It may well be that Valdosta citizens’ local tax revenues do not directly go to the building of the Wiregrass Power plant, but our federal and state taxes absolutely will be used to fund it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be cheap enough to pursue. As a taxpayer, I want my taxes to pay for schools, hospitals, and teachers, not something that is going to pollute the air my little girl breathes and endangers her health and her life.

A number of the over 45 Biomass Incinerators that have been closed down nationwide, after their communities had paid millions to build them, shut down because the cost of wood became too high to make cheap electricity. Unlike solar fuel which is free, wood is a commodity on the international market and the price fluctuates with economic growth. When America and Asia start building again, wood will increase in price. The same wood that Mr. Lofton expects to fuel his Biomass Boondoggle will also be competitively priced for pulp mills and Langboard, or for other biomass plants currently in operation in the South or proposed to be in operation in the South. There is no guarantee that wood (even supposed leftover wood) will always be plentiful and cheap, no to mention that when we experience the hottest decade on record we ought to be worrying about maintaining forests instead of cutting them down. So when Georgia and the federal government grants subsidies/ tax rebates/tax incentives to Wiregrass Power, LLC, to build this plant we are not even assured that the loss in state and federal revenue will be offset economically by cheap electricity to local citizens.

3. Mr. Lofton stated: “I think the raw facts dispute any ongoing issues related to environmental racism.” Once again, I shall repeat what is patently obvious to anyone who drives around the proposed site, I believe I have stated these facts at least 3 times now for his edification. There are 7 black churches, 2 predominantly black elementary schools, 2 predominantly black Head Start programs, a predominantly black assisted living facility, Sands-Horizon, serving over 60 families, two large predominantly black apartment complexes called Brittany Woods and Park Chase, and Valdosta’s most upscale black residential community all located within 2 miles of the site. In a one mile radius Mr. Lofton has repeatedly stated that the ratio of white-to-black is 7-to-1. As I have repeatedly stated, the black churches and schools are located in the one mile radius and they do not count as residences, but the children and church members will breathe the same air as the residents there. As I have repeatedly stated, one-mile is an arbitrary demarcation designed to misrepresent the facts. Additionally, from what I can ascertain, he is using 2000 Census data. The 2010 Census data is not out yet, to the best of my knowledge. Regardless, it is quite clear that the most populous group of residents living closest to the proposed plant are black people. The NAACP remains firm that this plant represents another example of Environmental Racism.

Here’s an article on the lawsuit that NAACP pursued against the Tallahassee biomass incinerator alleging civil rights violations, ie, environmental racism. I would very much like to share this with the private email list of stakeholders that Mr. Lofton is currently maintaining. The result of this lawsuit was that the Tallahassee biomass incinerator was blocked.

4. Mr. Lofton stated: “Dr. Carl Manning, an environmental professor at VSU who has done significant research in biomass, agrees and completely supports our project.” Could someone please tell me what professional organizations Dr. Carl Manning is president of? What groups does he speak for? I am not familiar with his publications on biomass and did not find anything that he had published when I googled his name. Regardless of his supposed vast knowledge on biomass, most environmental organizations and medical organizations did not adopt his position and many such scientific and medical groups promote policy that is contrary to his position. I run into scientific mavericks all the time and can’t quite understand why one VSU scientist is now the expert on this topic as far as Mr. Lofton is concerned? I did not realize that he carries the same gravitas as the American Cancer Society or the American Lung Association.

Perhaps Mr. Lofton meant VSU professor Dr. Tom Manning? If so, same point applies. Additionally, he is a professor of chemistry, not an environmental scientist. Additionally, there are far more scientists at Valdosta State University and nationwide that disagree with him, as well as numerous scientific and professional organizations that disagree with him. I’m told he receives grant money from the lumber industry so I would hardly consider him to be an unbiased source of scientific information.

Here’s video of asthma and respiratory disease specialist Dr. Ronald Saff presenting the medical research on the dangers these kinds of plants pose to our children, elderly, and those with lung disease to the Gretna, Florida, public officials. The Gretna biomass incinerator was blocked as a result. If Dr. Tom Manning has any medical knowledge to bring to this issue would someone please let me know? Otherwise I will defer to the vast array of medical experts that have already weighed in on the subject nationwide and I refer back to the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.

Thank you WACE for allowing me to post to your discussion listserve and website.

Leigh Touchton, President
Valdosta-Lowndes NAACP
610 Mack Drive
Valdosta, GA 31602