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Monday, July 12, 2010

Environmental study will add biomass info

From an editorial in the Wausau Daily Herald:

The Sierra Club's Wisconsin Clean Energy Campaign and the advocacy group Clean Wisconsin recently asked the state Public Service Commission to complete a environmental impact statement on the effects of a proposed biomass plant in Rothschild.

We're in favor of bringing more information out to the public about this project, and we hope that a full assessment will be performed.

The $250 million plant, which is being proposed by We Energies and the Domtar paper mill, is not large enough for state statute to trigger the evaluation, which would be completed by state and federal agencies. We agree with the Sierra Club and Clean Wisconsin that it should, anyway.

It's worth saying that we're very much open to the possibility that an environmental impact statement will not find that the plant will have a negative effect.

We're living in polarized times, and it's easy to slip this question into that sort of lens -- environmentalism vs. industry, perhaps. The assumption, in this view, would be that having more information will necessarily show that biomass technology is harmful, and a more detailed study will necessarily lead to the rejection of the plant. So people who favor the study must be people who oppose the plant. People who favor the plant, then, will naturally be opposed to doing the study.

We reject that way of looking at this question. Our Editorial Board's experience with Domtar and We Energies has been that they've been forthcoming and willing to provide substantive answers to critics' questions. Even in this specific case, the companies haven't ruled out conducting the formal study. A We Energies spokesman said it would be premature to call for a study before the Public Service Commission completes its own environmental evaluation.

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