VDT turns against VLCIA and its biomass plant

The newspaper of record in Valdosta and Lowndes County has reversed course on biomass. Top of the front page in a landmark issue: Wednesday, October 27, 2010:
Biomass plant fuels questions

by Johnna Pinholster
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — As the state and nation look to renewable energy solutions, locally, a proposed green energy plant is causing controversy and raising questions that remain unanswered.

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority and Wiregrass Power, LLC are in the beginning phases of developing property for a future biomass electric generating plant.

Issues with lack of information

Members of the editorial board met with Authority personnel at the inception of the project several years ago. Since then, due to the amount of time that the taxpayer-funded Authority has spent on securing the necessary land and permits, the Times has requested information, which has been incomplete, so the Times resorted to filing an Open Records Request, which the Authority complied with at a cost of $150.

The Times’ questions concern a number of areas of direct concern to citizens.

Ain’t that the truth! The VDT is having the same experience I had earlier: getting information out of the VLCIA is like pulling teeth.

And if the point still wasn’t clear, the VDT summed it up in an editorial:

With opposition groups becoming increasingly vocal about the proposed Wiregrass biomass plant in Valdosta, The Times has been trying to find answers to what we consider to be reasonable questions.

With millions in local, state and federal incentives being paid to support the plant, and with so much time and money invested by the Industrial Authority, the Authority is compelled to educate the public and keep all transactions open and above board.

The issues that The Times was most interested in are questions which have arisen since the plant was first discussed several years ago. Thinking that this would be the Authority’s opportunity to provide a solid defense of the project and to dispel the rumors about the plant, The Times submitted an Open Records request.

Until such time as citizens of this community who are paying for all of the incentives being provided to this company are told the whole truth about who is behind it, who is profiting from it, if the environmental concerns are valid, and if the technology being discussed even exists and has been proven to work in another facility, it’s difficult to endorse this supposed green energy initiative.

As a matter of fact, it’s difficult to describe anything about this plant as being green, other than the millions of tax dollars that are being expended to support it.

Like the VDT, my first impression of the biomass plant was as green energy, also a new market for my pine trees. Then I looked into it, and noticed questions weren’t getting answered. Some questions were being answered incorrectly, such as the VLCIA’s claim that the plant would be carbon neutral. I asked again and again, and VLCIA slammed the door in my face with this sign nailed to it:
We’re moving forward with permits in hand. Have a nice day.

Now that the VDT has done some real investigative reporting and found a lot of questions that don’t get answered, maybe you’d like to ask some of your elected or appointed officials some of those same questions. Here’s how to reach them.