Speakers spar over effects of proposed wood-burning power plant in Perryville

Thursday, April 8, 2010
In this aerial photo from the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission the area outlined in green will be the future location of Liberty Green Renewables' new wood-fuled power plant.

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Economic benefits and environmental effects of a new $120 million wood-fired power plant in Perryville were considered during a public forum Wednesday night.

About 100 people attended the meeting at the Perryville Senior Center to hear from project developer Jack Farley and environmental advocate Dr. William Sammons of Massachusetts. Participants submitted questions anonymously on notecards.

Liberty Green Renewables of Georgetown, Ind., plans to build a 32,000-kilowatt facility next to the Perryville Industrial Park to burn wood chips to produce electricity. It would produce enough energy supply for more than 23,000 homes and bring jobs to Perry County.

An emissions permit has yet to be issued by the Department of Natural Resources, but Farley said he expects one in late May or June.

Farley, a partner with Liberty Green Renewables, said there will be more than 100 construction jobs created during the two years it takes to construct the plant. Once operations start, there will be 25 full-time permanent high-paying jobs, including three engineers, and more than 40 ancillary jobs, Farley said.

The project will receive no property tax abatements from the city, county or state. However, it does qualify for a federal tax credit of approximately $10 for every megawatt-hour produced or federal economic stimulus money to offset the cost of plant construction.

Sammons, a Massachusetts pediatrician, said burning wood is "dirtier" that burning coal and poses health risks because of the emissions it produces. The carbon dioxide and particulate matter released into the air lead to premature death from heart and lung disease and increase the risk of cancer, he said.

"Children are at greater risk than adults because their bodies are still growing," Sammons said. "Kids are going to be exposed to higher levels at a longer period of time."

Sammons began to advocate against wood-burning power plants after one was granted a permit to draw water from a river he liked to fish in.

Pollutants released by the new plant will be well below maximum levels allowed by the EPA and Missouri, said Ken Hagg, environmental engineer with St. Louis consulting firm URS Corp., hired by Farley.

"There is pollution -- we've never said there isn't pollution from the plant -- but there is no wood energy facility in Missouri that will be cleaner than this plant," said Farley, who previously worked as a senior vice president at Cinergy.

Sammons admitted that the plant will meet standards but said current air quality standards don't account for most recent medical literature.

"You are taking a risk by building this plant. It will affect your health and the health of every child growing up in this community. This needs to be carefully weighed into this situation," Sammons said.

Members of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and the Missouri Sierra Club also were at the meeting.

"We are concerned about the particulates and carbon emissions as well as the effects on our forests," said Michael Berg of the Missouri Sierra Club office in St. Louis. "This is something we're looking into, but there is no official policy on it yet."

Concerns were also raised by those in the forest industry about the ability to maintain adequate supplies.

Liberty Green Renewables will buy its wood fuel locally, spending $10 million annually, which would help sawmills, timber owners and loggers, Farley said.

Wood is used to produce power at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Missouri-Rolla. The Perryville School District also recently received a grant to use a wood boiler to heat one of its buildings.



Pertinent Address:

4 N. Spring St., Perryville, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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