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Monday, February 28, 2011

Final Rothschild biomass power-plant meeting set

From an article in the Stevens Point Journal:

ROTHSCHILD -- Wausau-area residents will have their final opportunity Tuesday to weigh in on a controversial biomass power plant proposed in Rothschild.

The project, a joint partnership of Milwaukee-based utility We Energies and Domtar Paper, has generated strong opinions from supporters and opponents alike since it was announced in September 2009. Public hearings on the project held by local entities and state regulators have drawn crowds in the hundreds, and on Tuesday, those hearings will draw to a close.

Both the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Public Service Commission must approve permits for the project before construction can begin.

The utility initially pushed for confirmation of the project by both agencies before the end of 2010. We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said construction still can be completed before 2013, making the plant eligible for a federal tax credit.

The members of the PSC could rule on the project at any time. DNR regulators gave preliminary approval for an air permit earlier this month, a key step for We Energies.

The approval process has been incremental, first at the local level with height variances from the village of Rothschild and the city of Wausau. The PSC also gave preliminary approval for the project and rejected requests for a comprehensive study of its potential environmental effects by opponents and environmental groups.

The plant, located next to the Domtar Mill on Old Highway 51 in Rothschild, would burn woody biomass from tree tops and other collected wood, supplying Domtar with steam for its paper-making process and We Energies with energy to sell.

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