Five Groups Continue Appeal, Demand Environmental Information from Port Townsend Paper Corporation

Port Townsend, WA – Standing firm with their demand that Port Townsend Paper prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding its biomass incinerator, five public interest groups filed suit with the Washington State Court of Appeals this week. The suit is in response to a decision handed down by the Superior Court in Thurston County on April 10, 2012, that said further environmental review of the project is unnecessary.

The groups, No Biomass Burn, Olympic Environmental Council, Olympic Forest Coalition, PT Airwatchers and the World Temperate Rainforest Network, represent a broad spectrum of concerns about human health, clean air, the health of our forests, rivers and ocean.

"On the surface, biomass power generation might look like a good thing. But as is often the case with complex proposals like this, it takes more than one look. We are finding the harms that this project may inflict on the area are significant enough that we have no choice but to move forward," said Pat Rasmussen, Coordinator of the World Temperate Rainforest Network. "It’s shocking that the Department of Ecology would allow a multi-million dollar project with such broad ranging effects to proceed with no Environmental Impact Statement.

“Without a complete EIS, how can anyone, including Ecology, begin to evaluate what burning more than double the present amount of forest biomass, along with construction and demolition debris, will do to the air quality around Port Townsend and the communities downwind?”

Burning construction debris is of particular concern because it can be contaminated with plastics, heavy metals, cements, adhesives, petroleum oils and greases, creating a complex mix of air pollutants that changes over time.

"It is irresponsible to the community to allow the project to be built without a clear understanding of what it will do to our health, our forests, our roads, our waters," added Gretchen Brewer of PT AirWatchers.

To illustrate, Brewer cites more than doubling of ultrafine particulates that often lead to increased asthma, heart attacks and strokes in an already compromised community, over 400,000 green tons of woody fuel per year that must come from somewhere, an added 13-17,000 diesel truck trips per year on Highways 19 & 20 into town, and increased acidification of marine waters due to 300,000 more tons of CO2 emitted into the air.

"These are serious issues that need to be addressed."

Ruth Apter, who is studying the effects of CO2 on local shellfish populations, observes, "Increased burning means thousands more tons of climate-altering CO2 will be released into the atmosphere, when ocean waters have absorbed so much already that our native oysters are nearly wiped out."

A hearing date for the appeal has not yet been set.

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