Groups and individuals opposed to biomass energy plants announced Thursday they are taking steps to block a proposed plant in Gainesville while opposing federal legislation dealing with renewable energy.
Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, Gov. Charlie Crist and some environmental groups say using wood, crops or garbage as fuel for biomass plants can provide renewable energy that is needed in Florida’s future. But several proposed plants in Florida have been moved, canceled or have been delayed by local opposition groups, permitting problems or market uncertainties.
The Florida Public Service Commission in May determined that a 100-megawatt power plant in Gainesville is needed after the panel almost voted down the project in February. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on July 14 issued notice of its intent to approve an air pollution permit for the American Renewables LLC plant in Gainesville.
A coalition of at least 10 people is forming in opposition to the plant, said Mick Harrison, an Indiana attorney who is representing the group. Individuals from the coalition filed legal challenges this week against DEP’s site certification process for the plant and the PSC decision, Harrison said. A legal challenge to the DEP air pollution permit will be filed Friday, he said.
The company faces an increasingly well-organized and vocal group whose arguments have no bases in facts, said Albert Morales, chief financial officer of American Renewables in Boston. “We think it’s important to realize this project will help wean Gainesville off fossil fuels,” he said.
Meanwhile, 55 environmental and health groups, including six smaller Florida groups, sent a letter Thursday to President Obama and congressional leaders urging them not to include biomass in the renewable energy standard of proposed federal farm and energy bills.
Editors note: Comments from American Renewables were added to this story on Friday, July 30.
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