On June 27, Judge James Dixon of the Thurston County Superior Court formally dismissed a lawsuit brought over the Nippon Industries’ cogeneration plant now under construction at the company’s Port Angeles facility.
The appellants now say they won’t appeal that decision, citing the “prohibitive legal costs” of further legal appeals.
Mill manager Harold Norlund called the decision welcome news. “We at NPIUSA believe it is time to move forward. Our project is under construction and our team’s efforts are to complete the project as designed and ensure the project meets its objectives.” Those objectives, Norlund said, include producing “20 megawatts of green energy while producing less pollutants than the 1970s boiler.”
“This is a significant investment for Port Angeles and Clallam County as it helps create much-needed jobs in the area, while benefiting the environment by reducing field burning of forest slash.”
The appellants won’t appeal, but that doesn’t mean they agree with the judge’s decision. In a statement they cited independent research by “a nationally recognized expert” which they say proves they are correct in claiming that Nippon is not using the best available pollution control technology (BACT) as required by law. Other technologies offer better protection for human health, they say.
Officials with both the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) and the Department of Ecology disagree with the appellants.
Bob Lynette, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, said, “ORCAA is the same agency that has been opposing putting up air pollution monitors in Port Angeles and Sequim, and has issued dubious statements regarding the measuring of fine particulates.”
Lynette said those statements include maintaining that pollutants from Nippon’s incinerator would fall out of the sky within 3.5 miles of the plant. Lynette noted that in recent days peninsula skies had been made hazy by particulates from forest fires in Asia.
“ORCAA maintains a pollution monitor at Neah Bay to observe such pollutants carried across the Pacific,” he added.
“When we recently asked to meet with ORCAA officials in Olympia so we could better understand the monitoring issues, they said that they were too busy to meet for the next month or more.” Lynette noted. “We ordinary citizens are also taxpayers who pay their salaries and I sometimes wonder if they have forgotten that their mission is to ensure that our air stays clean and doesn’t harm our health.”
The North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club is one of seven environmental organizations that filed the suit. Others include Protect the Peninsula’s Future, Olympic Environmental Council, Olympic Forest Coalition, Port Townsend Air Watchers, No Biomass Burn and World Temperate Rainforest Network.
The biomass burner is expected to fire up in mid-2013.