Former Sen. Rod Smith of Gainesville and the Florida Wildlife Federation are among the individuals and groups voicing their support for a proposed biomass energy plant in Alachua County in advance of a hearing this week.
CFO Alex Sink, who is running for governor with Smith on the ticket as lieutenant governor, supports biomass energy along with Gov. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson and some environmental groups. Biomass electric plants have faced local opposition in some areas but have begun to make gains in recent months.
American Renewables LLC received preliminary approval in July from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to build a 100-megawatt power plant in Alachua County. The City of Gainesville and the company say the plant will create jobs and convert waste wood into renewable energy.
But former Gainesville Mayor Thomas Bussing has challenged the DEP’s site certification for the plant. He and four other Alachua County residents also have filed a legal challenge to DEP’s proposed air pollution permit, alleging possible health threats posed by the plant.
A hearing on the site certification began Monday in Gainesville after Smith and Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, wrote separately last week to Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale offering their support for the project.
“In sum, Gainesville wants and needs the GREC project,” Smith wrote. “It is environmentally and fiscally sound and is a prudent choice for the people of Gainesville.”
Meale placed the letter on the record, noting that such ex parte communications with a hearing officer are prohibited. Supporters speaking at the hearing this week included representatives of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Florida Municipal Electric Association. The Florida Medical Association has asked the state to “minimize” approval of new biomass incinerators.
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