State Supreme Court Finds Use of Biomass Reduces CO2 in Air

In a unanimous decision, the Washington Supreme Court late last month ruled that using renewable biomass as an energy source decreases the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment. The ruling was followed closely by Seattle Steam, a private utility that is converting its operations to rely more heavily on biomass fuels as a clean alternative to natural gas.

A Port Townsend group had filed suit to try to stop plans by Port Townsend Paper Corp. to expand its co-generation plant on the Kitsap Peninsula. The state's Department of Ecology had reviewed the plans and found that using biomass as a fuel supply would not negatively impact the environment. The local group felt the project should undergo a full environmental impact study (EIS). The Supreme Court disagreed.

"...it was appropriate for Ecology to assume that the project will decrease the total amount of carbon dioxide in the environment, " the court said. It went on to say "Ecology correctly concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from the project would not have significant environmental impacts." The court ruled that no EIS was necessary.

Seattle Steam, which provides district heat to about 200 buildings in Seattle's Central Business District and First Hill neighborhoods, is converting its downtown facility to rely mostly on biomass fuel instead of natural gas.

"Our goal is to be carbon neutral or as close to it as possible," said Stan Gent, Seattle Steam's president and CEO, "and converting our downtown plant to biomass will cut our overall emissions to a fraction of what they were in 2010, when we installed our $30 million biomass facility."

Biomass, Gent said, is part of the natural carbon cycle. "Using fuels produced from biomass eliminates the need to mine fossil fuels out of the earth only to pump carbon into the atmosphere1," he said. "We all know that's not sustainable. Using biomass is a sustainable and lasting way to reduce carbon emissions."

"Natural gas is a fossil fuel and burning any fossil fuel increases green house gases in the environment," Gent said. "No one doubts that reliance on fossil fuels is changing the world's climate and changing the world for those of us who live on it. Biomass is a great, clean, renewable alternative and now we have a ruling by the state's highest court that endorses just how good it is."

1http://www.corrim.org/pubs/articles/2013/fpj-d-13-00012.pdf

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