An environmental lawsuit has delayed Roseburg Forest Products’ plans to make power by burning scrap wood in Weed, which the company points to as the cause of 33 layoffs.
A regional manager with the company based in Dillard, Ore., said he was surprised by the opposition to the $15.5 million project.
“The same groups that I thought would be behind green power and green energy are against it,” said Steve Henson, Roseburg’s California operations manager.
The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center and Weed Concerned Citizens, a pair of Siskiyou County environmental groups, filed the lawsuit in mid-December. In it, they claim the planned biomass energy operation at the company’s Weed veneer plant would sully the air and create noise pollution.
The groups aren’t trying to stop the plant; rather, they want changes made to its design that would make it more environmentally friendly, said Karen Rogers, a board member for the ecology center.
“There are some very specific things that could be done that would make us happy,” she said.
Rogers said those things include using pollution control systems that would lessen the plant’s impact on the county’s air.
Because of the nationwide sag in the building market, Henson said the demand for veneer is down, and the company planned to use the biomass project as a way to keep workers at the mill busy. Because of the lawsuit, he said the company reduced the mill’s work force from 138 to 105 last month.
But Rogers said the mill worker layoffs were already in the works because of the recession and the company is now blaming it on the lawsuit.
“It’s simple scapegoating,” Rogers said.
The Siskiyou County Planning Commission approved Roseburg’s plans in September. Two months later, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors denied an appeal to that decision brought by the environmental groups.
Late last month, the five-member board issued a statement reiterating its support of the project.
“It means jobs for Siskiyou County and it’s a renewable energy start for California,” said Supervisor Michael Kobseff, whose district includes Weed.
He said the project meets county, state and federal environmental requirements.
Roseburg owns 186,000 acres of north state timberland and has run the mill for 25 years. Steam already was used to dry wood and produce veneer, and the plan was to use it to power an electricity-producing turbine, said Bill Carlson, principal of Carlson Small Power Consultants, who helped design the project. Scrap wood is chipped and then burned to boil water, making the steam.
To maximize the power production, he said the mill would double the amount of dry wood it burns each year from 50,000 to 100,000 tons.
The resulting 10 megawatts of electricity would power about 8,000 homes, Carlson said.
As the former manager of the Wheelabrator Shasta Energy Co. in Anderson, he said the Roseburg project would be about one-fifth of the size of Wheelabrator.
Carlson argued that the wood chips that will be burned at the mill put off lower emissions than straw and other wastes burned at other biomass plants.
“This is cleaner than most,” he said.