Senator Udall on Biomass Plant in Gypsum

Senators Udall and Schwartz at plant in Gypsum.
Senators Udall and Schwartz at plant in Gypsum.

Here’s the link and below is an excerpt.

GYPSUM — U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said the Gypsum biomass power plant is a “win-win-win” project when he and state Sen. Gail Schwartz toured the plant’s construction site on Friday afternoon.

The Gypsum biomass plant is the first of its kind in Colorado and is on schedule to go online this December. The “woody” biomass plant will produce 11.5 megawatts of electricity per year by burning dead timber collected mostly from the White River National Forest. That main fuel source will be supplemented by other sources, such as wood construction waste that normally goes to the landfill. Of the 11.5 megawatts, 10 megawatts will be sold annually to Holy Cross Energy through a 20-year agreement and 1.5 megawatts will power the plant itself.

“When this goes online it will put us over the top of our goal to have 20 percent of our power coming from renewable energy by 2015,” said Holy Cross CEO Del Worley. “This will put us at around 22 or 23.5 percent renewable energy.”

Udall, who serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, touted the public-private project as a fine example of how to bolster the economy and help the environment while generating domestic power.

“It’s a carbon-neutral, renewable energy source, it mitigates forest wildfire, it creates about 100 jobs in total and it’s going to be profitable,” Udall said. “There’s nothing wrong with profit — profit leads to reinvestment.”

Eagle Valley Clean Energy LLC — a subsidiary of Evergreen Clean Energy Corporation — is the company behind the Gypsum plant, which will get the bulk of its fuel from West Range Reclamation LLC. West Range is a forest and land management company in Hotchkiss that was recently awarded a long-term stewardship contract with the U.S. Forest Service. West Range will receive $8.66 million through the 10-year contract.

“The stewardship contract is at the heart of this,” Udall said. “It’s a beautifully fulfilling relationship.”

Environmental health

Schwartz said Colorado is 37th in the nation for utilizing biomass power but it is the No. 1 producer of biomass fuels.

“We have 4 to 6 million acres of standing dead timber in our state,” she said. “We have 175,000 slash piles in Colorado that we will burn anyway. This biomass plant will help clean our forest and mitigate wildfires as well as create jobs and electricity.”

Udall said the biomass plant is a market-based solution.

“[Eagle Valley Clean Energy] is bringing value to forest slash and waste,” he said.

Udall said the plant is carbon-neutral because the wood fuel contains carbon that is already in the environment.

“It’s circulating, unlike coal, which is mined,” he said.

Udall added that the biomass plant is “state-of-the-art” in terms of its filtration and monitoring systems for pollution.

For party watchers, both Schwartz and Udall are D’s.

According to Derek, 250 tons a day is which is ten log truck loads a day, about 10 MMBF/year.

17 thoughts on “Senator Udall on Biomass Plant in Gypsum”

  1. Thanks for being a reliable conduit of misinformation in this quintessential example of our persistent political predicament in which there is no functional opposition party.

    Senator Udall has clearly drank the Free Market Environmentalism (FME) koolaid and abandoned any objectivity around the facts of biomass incineration. The sad facts are, FME reverses the course of traditional environmental activism which must necessarily address causation of a problem. FME is modeled upon Disaster Capitalism, where profiteering opportunities “incentivize” a relationship with the effects of an environmental problem rather than reversing the causation of the problem. Corporate controlled lapdog media outlets and blogs alike, allow unchallenged FME proponents to greenwash their scams in order to profit off of disasters.

    Such are the claims of carbon neutrality of biomass. But more tragically, dramatic changes in the way we address causation of Green House Gas emissions are absolutely necessary and crucial in the next two decades. The opportunity costs of industry creation which profits off of compounding the converging environmental disasters we face — will most certainly cement our planetary climatic fate.

    How could this come about?

    Despite Udall’s family name as former environmental heroes, that was then, and this is now (post Citizens United v FEC). Family names are but mere corporate brands to be bought and marketed to the consumer for the desired effect. There is no doubt the good Senator is being handsomely rewarded to spout the benefits of his “win-win-win” “market based solution.” AND being totally backed up by the sucked-up and sold-out national Gang Green echoing their funder’s corporate propaganda.

    The reality is, Udall’s grandstanding will result in profound health consequences to his constituency in order that Evergreen “Clean Energy” Corporation achieves a taxpayer subsidized bottomline profit from a federal mandate mirroring the FME greenwashed memes.

    Alternatives to biomass incineration of beetle kill and fire damaged forest abound. Plenty of evidence points to the fact that allowing dead trees to remain in place has huge benefits for aiding regeneration and maintaining species diversity. Assuming all dead forests will succumb to wildfire is absurd. Creating value added industries which are founded upon truly sustainable jobs making products which help keep the prodigious quantities of carbon sequestered would also be far preferable. These include converting some portion of the forests into badly-needed soil supplements and topsoil itself.

    Published science abounds, refuting Udall’s parroting of FME and agency claims of Carbon Neutrality rendering his position on the matter an exquisite embarrassment of his understanding of the issue. His claims are those of a paid off free market fool on a corporate errand which will accelerate our course towards irreversible, catastrophic climate change.

    • Just a reminder that tree ring studies near Yosemite show that some areas have had 13 wildfires in the last 100 years. The average is about 10 wildfires in the last 100 years, at the 4000-6000 foot elevation. In this area, snags often burn before they “return to the soil”. AND, once again, we currently have no lack of snags across the west.

    • Senator Udall is not claiming that “biomass” is “renewable” as I understand it.

      He is claiming that in this case, where dead trees are removed for hazards or fuel reasons, it is better in terms of CO2 to generate electricity than to burn them in piles. Fuel treatments are a given.. the question is “burn in piles or use?”

      I don’t know any scientific information that would disagree with this assertion.

      • Really?
        The quote source in the article seems clear enough to me:
        “It’s a carbon-neutral, renewable energy source, it mitigates forest wildfire, it creates about 100 jobs in total and it’s going to be profitable,” Udall said.”

        Additionally, this statement by Sen. Mark Udall on the subject of CO wildfires is in the Congressional Record:

        “… proactive force management done in the right way can have a whole constellation of benefits. You provide jobs to rural communities. You produce timber for homes and businesses and biomass for renewable energy.”


        It is interesting to note in that cited testimony that Senator Udall never once mentioned climate change as a causation factor in the huge incidence of wildfires in CO. In fact, it was disappeared and instead stated in his testimony simply as “Wildfires are a natural phenomenon…”

        Secondly, his (laughably nonsensical) claim is (um) clear:
        “Udall said the plant is carbon-neutral because the wood fuel contains carbon that is already in the environment.” Whew!
        Neutrality in this equation must be based upon something of substance, for goodness sake.Historically it has been based upon the supposition that tree regrowth will capture and sequester the carbon. This has been exposed as ineffectual in the time frame necessary to sequester the carbon for meaningful claims of neutrality to be achieved; and the elimination of cabon loss through land use change.

        Lastly, your claim that, ” it is better in terms of CO2 to generate electricity than to burn them in piles.” is completely false for a number of public health and climatological opportunity-cost reasons making your question, “burn in piles or use?” self evidently restricted to an undesirable outcome which also fails the test of common sense solutions to the underlying causation of the problem (unnecessary and avoidable GHG emissions).

        The real question is, are there alternative methods to combustion of the wood piles and timber?

        The answer is absolutely! If there were ever an appropriate subsidy, it would be in seeking alternatives to combustion of this wood.

        • Well, David, you don’t account for the 175,000 “dice rolls” that risk escape when the piles are burned. And, somehow, I don’t think these “piles” are on the small size. Is the “greatest good” really served by doing nothing and embracing “whatever happens”?

          • Larry, your reference to “175,000 “dice rolls” that risk escape…’ is unintelligible.

            I am not making a case for “doing nothing and embracing “whatever happens.”’

            • I guess I have to spell it out *sigh* The article describes 175,000 piles that will need to be burned if they cannot be utilized as fuel. So, burning them all represents 175,000 individual risks of escape. This is a very significant level of risk, and the government would be fully liable for any and all escapes. You only say that there are alternatives but, you don’t have anything site specific in dealing with billions of dead trees.

              • Yeah, but WHAT is at “risk of escape?” What are “dice rolls?”

                Again, I am not making a case for “doing nothing and embracing “whatever happens.”’

                I am making a case for the investigation of alternatives to combustion which maximize carbon sequestration. These include consumer products such as badly needed topsoil, (or did you not read what you are replying to?)

                • UMMMM, the burning piles?!?!?!?!

                  There is a probability that one in X amount of burning piles will escape, depending on the MANY controllable and non-controllable factors. Each ignition is, essentially, a “dice roll”, where THAT particular pile COULD be the one that starts a late fall, wind-driven firestorm. Or. it could just be a pesky and expensive fire that is hard to contain. I think it is pretty clear that no one (besides you) are proposing to “preserve” these piles, saving them from horrible combustion.

                  Your proposal to harvest consumer-grade topsoil seems doomed to failure, David. *smirk*

        • David, it sounds like you are advocating for use as sawtimber, OSB or other uses for this material than energy? And that that should be subsidized? I think most everyone would prefer this.

          I think the whole carbon accounting business is very confusing. Maybe it would be better to just look at this situation and see where the disagreements are.

          We have a situation (right now, in this place) in which piles will be burned either into the air or as heat in this facility, substituting for fossil fuels. So we can examine this one situation and do the calculations.

          Situation A. Sticks release a CO2 in atmosphere, residents heat using coal or natural gas, releasing b C02 in development, transport and infrastructure.

          Situation B. Sticks are transported using c C02, then are burned releasing d CO2.

          It seems to me there’s less CO2 released if c + d is smaller than a + b.

          Of course, based on many EIS’s I’ve read, there are a host of bad environmental things potentially associated with oil and gas and coal. So I don’t know if the calculus you are thinking about is about a comparison of all the environmental impacts or just those related to CO2.

          What am I missing?

          • “What am I missing?”
            Sharon, you are missing several of my previously stated points especially as they relate to human health and opportunity costs for taking meaningful action in GHG reductions.

            “I think the whole carbon accounting business is very confusing. Maybe it would be better to just look at this situation and see where the disagreements are.”

            The disagreements are in your extremely limited scope of addressing the full impacts of the problem. Further, I think the carbon accounting is not confusing at all, since there’s a plethora of published science exposing inadvertent, and deliberate attempts alike, at precluding the meaningful time frame necessary to effect necessary drastic reductions in our GHGs ( i.e. the next 10-20 years are all that matters — after that climate forcing feedbacks are predicted to become unstoppable and irreversible.)

            This factors heavily as to whether the carbon released from an 80 year old tree will somehow be replenished within that critical two decade time frame alone. When one accounts for carbon losses from soil disturbances (which can typically contain more carbon than the tree itself) and human and climate induced land use changes precluding forest regeneration, the claim of carbon from biomass combustion is “neutral” is all the more vacuous.

            (The following information is excerpted from a Congressional Briefing of September 25, 2012, tiled, “Human Health Effects of Biomass Incinerators” by Presenters
            Rachel Smolker, Ph.D. • Air Pollution and Other Waste Emitted from Biomass Incinerators
            William Sammons, M.D. • Biomass Incinerators and Ultrafine Particles
            Norma Kreilein, M.D. • Air Pollution Effects on Human Health – Children and the Inflammation Response
            William Blackley, M.D. • Biomass Incinerators and Dioxin


            In fact, biomass emissions are far worse than fossil fuel, both in actual carbon released per kWh of electricity produced, and the resulting dioxins, radioactive fly ash, PM 2.5, and nano particles. As a matter of fact, a 2007 congressional report studying the costs vs benefits of just one toxic byproduct of biomass combustion (“Clean Air Fine Particulate Implementation”) estimated a cost of $7000 per person with estimated benefits of between $19,000- $167,000 per person.

            In a letter to Congress concerning biomass legislation, the American Lung Association had this to say:

            “The Lung Association urges that the legislation not promote the combustion of biomass. Burning biomass could lead to significant increases in emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, and have severe impacts on the health of children, older adults, and people with lung diseases.”

            An abstract in “Global Change Biology( © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, GCB Bioenergy, doi: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2012.01169.x) might provide help with your carbon confusion

            Title: “Large-scale bioenergy from additional harvest of forest biomass is neither sustainable nor greenhouse gas neutral

            *Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Box 100164, 07701, Jena, Germany, †Institute of Botany, University of Basel, 4056, Basel, Switzerland, ‡Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, 321 Richardson Hall, Corvallis, OR, USA, §Institute of Social Ecology Vienna, Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt, Wien, Graz Schottenfeldgasse 29, 1070, Vienna, Austria, ¶Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, IPSL, CEA CNRS UVSQ, Centre d’Etudes Ormes des Merisiers, 91191, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

            Owing to the peculiarities of forest net primary production humans would appropriate ca. 60% of the global increment of woody biomass if forest biomass were to produce 20% of current global primary energy supply. We argue that such an increase in biomass harvest would result in younger forests, lower biomass pools, depleted soil nutrient stocks and a loss of other ecosystem functions. The proposed strategy is likely to miss its main objective, i.e. to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, because it would result in a reduction of biomass pools that may take decades to centuries to be paid back by fossil fuel substitution, if paid back at all. Eventually, depleted soil fertility will make the production unsustainable and require fertilization, which in turn increases GHG emissions due to N2O emissions. Hence, large-scale production of bioenergy from forest biomass is neither sustainable nor GHG neutral.

            (I’m afraid I’ll have to check out at this point but intend to return to the dialogue. Thank you for the opportunity to expand the discussion.)

            • I don’t think many are saying that biomass burning, alone, will provide a large fraction of our energy needs. Obviously, it is a part of an energy portfolio strategy, designed to wean us off fossil fuels, instead of competing with other renewables. The anti-biomass folks are known for their “doomer” attitudes and faulty conclusions. They have been pushing the idea that 30 million acres of forest would be cut if biomass were labeled as “renewable”. Of course, they want you to think that millions of acres of public lands would be clearcut, if biomass energy were successful. The real outcome has more benefits than just an energy source. With BILLIONS of dead trees, couldn’t we cut a mere 100,000,000 trees for human uses and benefits?

            • David, these are not “science” in my opinion. They are sets of assumptions made by a bunch of scientists. So they make assumptions and publish a paper. Those are simply quantified assumptions.

              I am specifically not talking about assumptions about what land use change might occur. We are talking about wood we already have on hand and what to do with it. No one is going to do biomass plantations, probably anywhere in the west, but certainly not in Lodgepole Country.

              We are not talking about “biomass facilities”. We are talking about a specific biomass facility in a specific place at a specific time.

              We are also talking about a technology that is being compared, not to a wonderful impact-free technology, but to the much maligned coal and natural gas, which are in their own fights with each other about which is worse. See this article – particulates from coal are really good?

              But one time I was in DC there were Sierra Club posters on the Metro about dirty coal.

              So to me here is the framing… for Holy Cross energy, is it better to use wood that would be otherwise burnt for energy, than to use coal or natural gas?

              Maybe because we live with this debate all the time in Colorado, and folks have oil and gas in their backyard (Congressman Polis, across the street from his family’s farm), it is clearer what the trade- offs in terms of energy production.

              So here are facts. Do you disagree with any of these?

              1. People need electricity
              2. They have extra trees which would otherwise burn in piles INTO THE AIR with no scrubbers.
              3. Or they could use natural gas or coal.

              Which is the safest when you take water use, air pollution, transport and facility impact into account?

              Which is the best for the environment in this specific situation, and for the communities?

              Any international group of academics is answering a (way) different question. One that has little to no relevance to this question.

              • Sharon,
                In the 41 minutes elapsed since my post and your response, (even assuming you devoted every elapsed second towards scrutinizing and digesting the copiously referenced contents I posted), I am flummoxed if not bedazzled and bamboozled by your facility at arriving confidently at a summary dismissal of the assembled international consensus of scientific assessment of biomass combustion and its effects on human health.

                This says a great deal about your awesome powers of objective assimilation of contrary evidence to your personal conclusions on this matter, to say nothing of the fact that the mountainous assemblage of referenced, published, internationally peer reviewed science, had absolutely no effect on your prior conclusions!

                You are a most amazing specialist in biomass combustion science as it relates to carbon accounting and human pathology and physiology! I had no idea these were also your specialties along with your other prodigious and distinguished claimed specialties.

                Forgive me for attempting to present evidence for which I knew not you had already achieved a complete mastery beyond even the expertise of the published scientists!

                I am humbled if not embarrassed and ashamed for even daring to posit an alternative point of view on your blog. May you remain the steadfast bastion of ultimate truth and wisdom– a beacon of omniscience, and a shining example of the paragon of scientific objectivity.

                Yours Truly

                • David: It has been a very long time since I last bothered to respond to one of your posts. However, this juvenile assemblage of big words, mockery, and rude sarcasm deserves some response by someone other than Sharon. She has put in long hours over several years making certain that people such as you and I have a public voice in these matters — and hopefully a voice mostly devoid of personal attacks, weird assertions, and convoluted thinking.

                  I spent about five minutes reviewing your post and it’s collection of obscure, off-topic and cherry-picked links and came to similar conclusions as Sharon. Frankly, even 41 minutes is way too much time to spend on this kind of writing. Your bias is obvious, and it directly affects your “logic.” Using big words and convoluted sentences is not an indication of intelligence or insight so much as it is a sign of insecurity and pretentiousness.

                  I think your “humor” in this instance is not very (“at all”) funny and fails to make much of a point. You come across as angry and frustrated and someone worth avoiding, whatever your intent. Expecting more than 41 minutes of someone else’s time — especially someone you’ve publicly mocked and ridiculed — is expecting quite a lot. Maybe a good time to review some of your own statements and try and figure out how to communicate your thoughts and ideas more successfully. And without being so superficially unctuous.

                  • Doctor Zybach,
                    You are a most amazing and insightful psychoanalyst and brilliant literary style, and oh, humor critic too! I had no idea these were also among your academic specialties along with your other prodigious and distinguished claimed achievements.

                    However, (1) the freely offered personal attacks have absolutely nothing to do with the content of the subject matter at hand; (2) the advice and critique unsolicited, but helpfully reinforcing my points, not to mention being hilariously hypocritical; and, (3) finally, the position you defend (admitting “spending five minutes reviewing” the post) containing a great deal of published science mirrors the whole point of my sarcasm directed at Sharon. I want to thank you for using the same approach as Sharon, and then attempting to defend it with the full weight of your doctor-ness behind it.

                    I will, however, take to heart your advice at restating the issues central to my sarcasm.

                    That being, the evidence I presented successfully demonstrated,

                    (1) there is much more involved in this discussion to simply build a biomass plant and then falsely marketing it as a “win-win-win” “market based solution” in the name of renewable energy.

                    (2) There are demonstrably false and ignored assertions by Sharon associated with Senator Udall’s claims.

                    (3) There are demonstrably denied human health consequences and other socioeconomic impacts associated with both Udall’s and Sharon’s defensive tactics of using intellectual, professional, and ethical blinders in the narrow interests of compartmentalizing this issue — in the service of facilitating business as usual — rather than advocating problem solving addressing causation of the problems central to this discussion.

  2. Yes, Mr. Udall has had a “personal evolution” about logging. The rift grows wider. Let’s see, the amount of wood this facility will take will amount to about 1000-1500 acres a year of MPB salvage clearcutting. That’s about 45-65 miles of “hazard road” clearing so the citizens can make it to their favorite wilderness trailhead. That means the White River NF has about 2000 miles left to go.

    The “biomass” facility at Snowflake Arizona has had it’s share of troubles…but biomass boilers have been very succesfull elsewhere.


Leave a Comment