Industrial Authority Response to Two Letters to the Editor

The appended message from a tax-supported public official to many people about official business was forwarded to me; perhaps the public would also like to see it.

The CCA press conference he mentions seems to have been covered by the VDT in this article: to be about Private prison company picks Valdosta as potential site.

The rest of the letter is about issues related to the biomass plant proposed for Lowndes County by Wiregrass Power LLC (wholly owned by Sterling Energy Assets of Atlanta) and backed by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA), of which Brad Lofton is the Executive Director. Here’s the letter from Leigh Touchton of the NAACP to which he refers.


From: Brad Lofton []
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2010 4:37 PM
To: ‘Brad Lofton’
Subject: Industrial Authority Response to Two Letters to the Editor Yesterday
Importance: High

Good afternoon everyone:

Thanks to all of you that were able to attend our CCA press conference and breakfast yesterday. We’ve had positive feedback today from around the region, and we’ve received congratulations from most of the other 15 communities competing for the project.

After reading the two letters to the editor yesterday, I felt compelled to e-mail our stakeholders to provide you an update with facts and information related to the biomass plant. We have intentionally avoided a response in the paper because we do not want to energize a forum for continued misinformation. Despite numerous town hall meetings and other meetings we’ve facilitated for two years, there is still plenty of misinformation on the street.

We were especially disappointed with the Chairman of the NAACP’s letter yesterday alleging that the Authority is an “environmental racist” by intentionally placing the project in a minority neighborhood. At our request, the South Georgia Regional Commission performed a one-mile demographic analysis of the plant, and the current census data indicates an ethnic population breakdown of 2309 Whites, 205 Blacks, and 144 Hispanics–there is almost seven times the number of white residents compared to minorities. The company’s physical site requirements for the plant dictated the project location–proximity to a high transmission line, proximity to a wastewater treatment plant for cooling water, and good transportation access. These were the only factors in locating the project off of Perimeter Road and adjacent to Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. As a reminder, our project’s use of treated wastewater will prevent nearly one million gallons per day of aquifer/potable water use, and our project is the only plant in America we are aware of that will make use of the reclaimed water source. Georgia Trend Magazine noted that the decision to locate the plant adjacent to the City’s Mud Creek Wastewater Plant is an example of good government and environmental stewardship.

The additional letter to the editor yesterday alleges a Chernobyl type environmental fallout once the plant comes online. The sole purpose, however, for the project is to create a clean, green, domestically sourced renewable energy plant. This is exactly what our project will produce. After our visit to Cadillac, MI to tour a similar-sized plant, we contacted scores of local residents, realtors, government officials, and economic development officials in the community to gauge their impression of the Michigan plant. Unanimously, they all supported the plant, and they characterize the facility as a leading corporate citizen in the community. Other than during start-up operations when the company initially used reclaimed tires for fuel, there has never been soot on vehicles and homes (as was alleged yesterday), and the surrounding property has developed and flourished. (Wiregrass Power is permitted to use only clean woody biomass forestry residue, mill residue, clean urban untreated wood waste, wastewater treatment plant sludge of approximately 0.5 percent of total heat input to the boiler and small quantities of natural gas during startup, shut down and boiler stabilization operations-no tires.) The plant remains a leading taxpayer in the community, and it has had a tremendous impact on the timber and agricultural industry there.

A specific allegation made yesterday of heavy metals that will be emitted in the air comes from Mercury and the burning of the City’s sludge (less than 1% of the plant’s fuel). The burning of the sludge will actually lengthen the life of the regional landfill, and it will provide the City with revenue in lieu of an expense for “landfilling” it. Where most emissions controlled by an EPD permit are calculated in tons per year, the projected Mercury that will be emitted from this plant will be less than 0.136 pounds per year and is statistically insignificant. There will be no Mercury emitted from the 99% wood fuel.

Anytime you combust wood product, you have a nominal amount of particulate matter, but the plant will be state-of-the-art and will employ two additional control devices above and beyond their EPD permit requirement governed by the Federal Clean Air Act. The particulate matter will be less than 0.03 pounds per million btu input and will be handled via a bag house technology that will nearly eliminate all particulate matter.

Our Wiregrass Project has been endorsed and supported by everyone we have been in contact with over the past two years. It is supported by the Obama Administration via federal renewable energy tax credits. The state of Georgia has listed the technology as a targeted industry for the state, and environmental groups across the country enthusiastically support this form of green energy. The technology is currently employed at three existing industries in our community today (PCA, ADM, and Langdale). PCA’s current $230 million expansion is a biomass conversion that is substantially larger than this plant. Due to the mill’s change to the same technology we’re developing, and even though PCA is significantly larger than our project, they will be considered the “greenest” paper mill in America. Similar to PCA, but on a smaller scale, our plant will replace 40 megawatts of coal produced electricity, and these mills are carbon neutral which adds to its environmental benefit.

The biomass plant will provide good jobs, substantial revenue to our County and Board of Education, and it will be a safe asset for our community. Have a great remainder of the week, and please let us know if we can discuss this project further with any members of your constituency.