SHELTON - More than 100 people attended a public hearing Monday afternoon on a proposal for a wood-waste burning power plant in Mason County.
The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, which is considering the plant proposal, held the 1 p.m. hearing at the Shelton Civic Center. Thirty people signed up to speak over about two hours; 17 opposed the plant, and 13 supported it. The hearing was expected to continue at 6 p.m. Monday night.
Adage Mason LLC wants to build a $250 million biomass plant in the Shelton area, designed to burn more than 600,000 tons of wood debris per year and create enough power to serve about 40,000 homes.
Supporters, including people representing labor unions and economic development agencies, are urging the plant be approved. They say it would bring needed jobs to Mason County, which has an unemployment rate of 10 percent. If the plant meets regulations, it should be allowed, they said.
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“This process is based on science, on fact, and that should be respected,” said Matt Matayoshi of the Economic Development Council of Mason County.
Opponents, many of whom are grass-roots citizen activists, expressed concerns about the 550,000 tons of carbon dioxide the plant would release each year along with hundreds of tons of other air pollutants. They’re concerned the plant hasn’t been properly vetted.
Harriet Ammann, a toxicologist and retired state worker, said she was concerned about the effects on people who suffer from heart disease and lung problems during air pollution episodes.
“I’m not convinced that energy from this plant will not add to that burden and add to the burden of disease and illness,” she said.
Because of the controversy surrounding the biomass plants, the Thurston County Commission enacted a one-year moratorium on new biomass facilities in unincorporated Thurston County, including urban growth areas. A proposed biomass facility at The Evergreen State College has also raised concern.
The commission will hold a public hearing on the topic at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Thurston County Courthouse, Building 1, Room 152.
The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, better known as ORCAA, regulates air quality over the Olympic Peninsula, including Clallam, Greys Harbor, Jefferson, Mason and Pacific counties.
Fran McNair, executive director of ORCAA, said that the agency is delaying its final decision on the Adage proposal until Mason County completes its review under the State Environmental Policy Act. ORCAA could make a decision shortly thereafter, certainly this year, spokesman Dan Nelson said.
McNair said her agency could make one of three decisions – approve the application for the power plant, deny it or remand it for further consideration.
But a final resolution may come months after that. Any of those options is likely to be appealed.