Work will continue on a new Nippon Paper Industries USA biomass plant despite an appeal opponents filed last week with the state Pollution Control Hearings Board that takes issue with the construction permit.
“The foundation work is continuing, and we’ve had continuous construction since the end of June,” mill manager Harold Norlund said Friday.
“We have quite a bit invested in terms of equipment and construction,” he said.
“The major equipment is all on order.”
The appeal was filed Wednesday by seven groups, most of which lost a state Shorelines Hearing Board appeal in April that challenged the city of Port Angeles’ issuance of a shoreline development permit by alleging that the plant will increase pollution and harm forests.
The current appellants are Protect the Peninsula’s Future, No Biomass Burn, Port Townsend AirWatchers and the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club, World Temperate Rainforest Network, Olympic Forest Coalition and Olympic Environmental Council.
The appeal was filed against the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency — or ORCAA — the state Department of Ecology and Nippon.
It challenges the notice of construction the Clean Air Agency issued June 21.
The $71 million project at the base of Ediz Hook would double the amount of wood waste Nippon uses to produce steam for manufacturing telephone-directory paper, newsprint and other paper products. It’s scheduled for completion in early 2013, Norlund said.
The appellants allege the facility would cause more pollution than ORCAA, Ecology and Nippon said it would.
The appellants call “erroneous” the claim by Nippon and the Clean Air Agency that the new biomass boiler will use best-available control technology for the nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds that will be emitted by the boiler.
“The EPA benzene emission factor is six times higher than the unsupported emission limit established for benzene by ORCAA, and the EPA formaldehyde emission factor is nearly 90 times higher than the unsupported formaldehyde emission limit established by ORCAA,” the appeal said.
The groups are seeking a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to stop construction “until the project has been properly reviewed under the Clean Air Act.”
Duff Badgley of No Biomass Burn took the appeal a step further in a statement, calling the actions of ORCAA and Nippon “cynical and maybe criminal” and said the company and the agency “cooked their pollution numbers.”
“Those are vitriolic accusations,” Norlund said.
“They are false and outrageous.”
Norlund said Nippon followed all the legal requirements for the permit and emphasized that the Clean Air Agency ruled in the company’s favor.
“This has been a very open, lengthy public process,” Norlund said.
Mark Goodin, supervising engineer for the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, stood by the agency’s analysis and permit approval.
The emission limits for formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic, “were quite stringent” and tighter than proposed by Nippon, he said.
“It’s a very stringent order of approval that really holds them to a very high bar for pollution control,” Goodin said.
“We do not issue a final approval to construct unless we have firm finding the project will comply with federal, state and local regulations,” he said.
He called Badgley’s statements “false” and “ungrounded.”
“We go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure the approvals we issue are rock solid and will ensure compliance and are protective of public health and welfare.”
A telephone pre-hearing conference will be scheduled “fairly quickly” to determine if the sides are amenable to a settlement or mediation to resolve the appeal, a Pollution Control Hearings Board spokeswoman said, adding that the earliest the full board would hear the appeal would be “early next year.”
Badgely said he intends to proceed with the appeal regardless of what transpires at the pre-hearing conference.
Meanwhile, no date has been set for a requested court review of a state Pollution Control Hearings Board May ruling that favored the Port Townsend mill’s $55 million biomass expansion project, said Port Townsend AirWatchers spokeswoman Gretchen Brewer on Friday.
Port Townsend AirWatchers and four other groups filed June 8 a petition for review by the Thurston County Superior Court of the state Pollution Control Hearings Board’s ruling that favored the Port Townsend mill’s $55 million biomass expansion project.
The state pollution control board effectively denied in May an appeal of a permit issued by Ecology in October for the upgrade of the Port Townsend Paper Corp. mill’s biomass facility, paving the way for construction to begin later this year.
The state board issued rulings on motions for summary judgment, with most rulings in favor of motions filed by Port Townsend Paper Corp. and Ecology.
The groups — which include No Biomass Burn, Olympic Environmental Council, Western Temperate Rainforest Network and Olympic Forest Coalition — are asking the court to set aside the state board’s rulings and declare that an environmental impact statement is needed for the mill’s project.
They said Ecology’s approval of the 25-megawatt project does not properly account for its environmental impacts, including carbon dioxide emissions and effects on the forests and human health.