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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Most at hearing support biomass; those opposed to facility continue to voice opinions, too

From an article by Jake Miller in the Wausau Daily Herald:

ROTHSCHILD -- Union leaders, village officials and small business owners were among the overwhelming majority who spoke Tuesday in favor of a proposed -- and highly debated -- biomass plant.

Only four of the 43 speakers opposed the plant during the first of two public hearings held by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, which will assess the comments when deciding whether it will approve the project in mid-January, said Administrative Law Judge Michael Newmark.

We Energies and Domtar first proposed the plant, which will burn a woody biomass as fuel, in September 2009. It has been at the center of public debate for nearly as long.

At the afternoon hearing attended by about 200 people -- another hearing was held Tuesday evening -- supporters continued to argue that the biomass plant is critical to keep Domtar competitive and that it will create both temporary and permanent jobs.

Opponents stood strong, saying the plant, which is expected to burn 500,000 tons of biomass each year, will adversely affect air quality despite We Energies data that say emissions would be cut by 30 percent.

Jeff Morzenti, an employee at the Domtar Mill in Rothschild for more than 25 years, said he is one of those responsible for monitoring what exits the mill's smoke stacks.

Not just as an employee, but as a longtime resident of Weston, the 51-year-old Morzenti said he wouldn't support the plant if he didn't believe it was safe.

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