Rod Smith, Florida Wildlife Federation support Gainesville biomass plant

Conceptual rendering of American Renewables proposed plant in Gainesville

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.

(Some story content provided by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting

12 thoughts on “Rod Smith, Florida Wildlife Federation support Gainesville biomass plant”

  1. The Gainesville biomass incinerator poses a threat to the public health. It will spew out hundreds of tons of toxic pollution daily. There are no air pollution controls that can protect humans – especially vulnerable children and the elderly – from the deadly particulates, carbon monoxide, dioxins, furans and mercury from
    this incinerator.

    That's why 77,000 doctors nationwide oppose wood burning biomass incinerators. The American Lung Association, the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians and the Massachusetts Medical Society all oppose biomass incinerators.

    Yet, Rod Smith, Crist, and Bronson think they are a "good idea"? Who's pockets are being lined with this scam?

  2. Public health appears to be taking the back seat with these plants. They are popping up all over the country claiming to be "green", when in reality, the VT plant is the NUMBER ONE polluter in the state of Vermont. The one in New Hampshire comes in at #2. People near the Vermont plant are seeing high rates of respiratory issues with their children. Maybe these medical people have a point? Burning wood is caveman technology, lets get real with real innovative green technology, not spend our public subsidies on these incinerators

  3. When the Tennesse Valley faced an onslaught of forest chippers like these in the 90s, the hook and bullet crowd and Wildlife officials were dead set against the inevitable deforestation and attendent impacts to wildlife and outdoor sports. As a result of widespread public opposition and threats to a number of threatened and endangered species, that round of deforestation machines was defeated.

    Now the US, and Florida is facing the liquidation of remaining native forests and soils for these schemes that will do nothing for energy independence, decrease water quality and quantity, adversely impact tourism, the sporting industry, and threaten local sustainable forestry jobs.

    Instead of wasting money and resources for these inherently unsustainable scams, we should be investing in truly sustainable technologies for the long haul.

    The pulp and paper industry of the southeast cannot even grow trees anymore without vast inputs of fossil fuel fertilizers with soils worn out just for that industry. The tree incineration industry will be even worse on soils. In addition to the obvious increase in fine particulate matter from the incinerators, there will also be the increase in toxic fertilizer fumes for Floridians to deal with.

    Politicians support these scams for profit or pandering. " We have to do something about energy, even if it's totally worng." Groups like SACE, formerly environmental in nature, support these scams because they taken the foundation monies and staffed up to promote these halfway technologies long after they knew they were not sustainable in the long run.

  4. It is upsetting to see the Wildlife Federation support policies that will lead to the destruction of forests, a reduction in biodiversity and severe health impacts. The increase in mercury pollution alone should have caused them to rethink this. Causing slowed mental development in children and toxic levels in fish that they like to catch, one would think this would make them pause. Perhaps they don't read or understand science. The article called Mercury in Smoke from Biomass Fires is pretty straight forward, Science Sept01.

  5. "Biomass electric plants have faced local opposition in some areas but have begun to make gains in recent months" Where does this come from? The industry is in fact quite fearful they will tank if EPA determines that it makes sense to regulate CO2 emissions from biomass burning. THe only reason these health and and destroying facilities are subsidized is because of an accounting error that has enabled them to claim they do not emit CO2 which is simply not true – in most cases more CO2 per unit of energy produced than coal. And Mr Bussing is absolutely right to be concerned about the emissions of particulates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, acid gases, dioxins, PCB, mercury and more…Who WOULD want to breathe that stuff? Property values all around this facility will fall as is generally the result. There are proposals all over the country – all seeking to cash in on the subsidies… and as soon as people learn about the impacts on their health, and the destruction of their forests that would be entailed, they quickly organize to oppose this stupidity. In fact, biomass incinerator proposals have been pushed back all over the country, and there is growing momentum, from Michigan to Indiana, to Massachussetts, and in Europe, where people took to the streets just a few days ago, strung a banner reading: "Biomass = deforestation + pollution = climate change" – several were arrested. Burning biomass for electricity is a dirty polluting, wasteful, forest-destroying disaster. Gainesville can do much better, no?

  6. The imperical and per reviewed science does not support the emotional claims of opponents. Scant, minisculed, filtered Emissions and particulate matter do not create " Biomass plumes of pollution" so states the EPA & emission scientists in sworn testimony.
    "There are no air pollution controls that can protect humans…"
    And you know this how? Google??

    Perhaps you would continue to breathe coal emissions from Fla's 45 Coal plants, which DO have large quantities of Dioxins, mercury, Nitrous Sulfites etc??
    Realistically & Scientifically, (which is not emotionally based thus not a popular topic with antiBiomass folks) Fla inland, does not have many renewable options. Again that Old REAL SCIENCE CALLED FACTS or in this case called the SCIENCE OF METEROLOGY rule out Wind, flat even heating, no steady wind. Geo Thermal? NADA. Solar? 100% return of captured is virtualy impossible.
    Wave Energy – in Gainesville?

    Get out a little and chk out the world – forests that are maintained are breathtakingly beautiful, and guess what , they comeback year after year too!

    Both a wildlife biologist and tree forester have stated the same sentiment which is essentially this- "the arrogance and narcisim of some people to believe that they alone are environmentlists, condemning our work. We have dedicated our lives and educations to learning the science and conservation to be able to do the right to nuture this world. We live here too with our children and families"

    Please get off "The Google" and get an education folks.

  7. Anti Biomass witness Dr Ron Saff (sp) is nothing more than an allergist with zero expertise or background in Biomass development,
    nor engineering science.
    He does have an philosophical (yet another opinion!)view that he is opposed to these plants.
    Under sworn testimony he has acknowledged that he in unfamiliar with any details of this plant: its emission controls, air modeling etc.
    Nor does he have the ability to intrepret them.
    That is not science to live by.

  8. The Alliance for Climate Protection, Climate Protection Action Fund, and Repower America (Al Gore) support renewable, clean Biomass energy.
    There is no science whatsoever supporting anti-biomass hysteria – it is merely a philosophy.

    Every pseudo "fact" Bussings lawyer Mick Harrison stated about Toxic particulate emissions during sworn Gainesville testimony was challenged and corrected by expert toxicologists.
    Mr Harrison could not get the experts off the stand fast enough, as his distortions were exposed.
    You have no scientific case folks, merely a philosopy.

  9. Anonymous…
    Forests may be beautiful, till the machines of man intervene. I planting pine clones all over the southeast and midwest on lands that were previously forests. Trees only comprise on average, 15% of the plant species in a healthy forest community. As we continue to convert forests to pine deserts, or eucalyptus fire hazards, we lose the diversity, resiliency, and habitat of a real forest and replace it with sterile biological deserts, highly dependent on herbicides and fossil fuel fertilizers. Native forests have no chemical dependency. The pulp and paper industry cannot grow their feedstocks sustainably, and it's difficult to believe that the biomass incineration industry will fare any better.

    For every biostitute you can quote about the "beauty" of their corn-like pine cropping, I can offer a dozen of actual foresters and biologists who can differentiate between a forest and an environmental disaster.

    I've never been poisoned in a real forest, but have in a clearcut forest being converted to pine desert.

  10. “Biomass incineration is NOT clean and green, it’s not sustainable and truly renewable; it’s not carbon neutral, not cost effective;and it’s neither environmentally friendly nor ecologically sound.”

    How, pray tell, will the Florida Wildlife Federation explain the above statement to all the wildlife of which it is supposedly the protector and caretaker?! The WWF has abandoned their core mission with this untenable position, and should return their donations to the well meaning donors.

    By the way, we trust that Rod Smith doesn't understand the horrible health and medical impacts that such a boondoggle will have on the human population in Alachua County. Does he and his family not live there?

    Lastly, we quote the referenced website as follows: "In an age when the nation is moving toward more enlightened energy platforms concerning production, dissemination and utilization, it is quite anachronistic that some would have us go back to the Stone Age. Burning trees and the like is, after all, what was done before there was solar, wind, oil and gas, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. Why in the world, with a global population approaching 7 billion, would we want to go back to energy sources that are as primitive as they are downright dirty?!"

  11. The Gainesville biomass power plant (which is supported by Rod Smith and the Florida Wildlife Federation, as well as the 28 community leaders and citizens who spoke in favor of the project at the recent hearing) is the result of seven years of planning, encompassing numerous public hearings and meetings, and has complied with all state and federal regulations. The project will provide its customers with many environmental benefits.

    It is interesting that many of the voices opposing this project come from out of the area. While the few opponents of the project have every right to raise questions, the facts and science are not on their side. Why are they raising roadblocks that will harm the public’s interests?

    Let’s look at the facts. This biomass project is part of a broader and well-planned strategy by the local utility, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), to provide reliable and sustainable energy to its customers. Some of the many environmental benefits of the project include:

    1. Decrease energy derived from coal, which currently supplies nearly 60% of GRU’s power
    2. Improve air emissions with state-of-the-art emissions technology
    3. Use waste wood that is currently being burned in the open with no emissions control or monitoring
    4. Reduce the amount of waste wood that is sent to already crowded landfills, especially after natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes
    5. Implement the highest forest stewardship standards in the nation
    6. Encourage land owners to keep their land forested because there will be a market for their waste wood
    7. Reduce wildfire risks in properly maintained forest land

    GRU is a forward-looking utility in a progressive community. It has already implemented a strong conservation program, the nation’s first Solar Feed-in-Tariff program, a landfill gas project, and a state-of-the-art combined heat and power (CH&P;) system at the new Shands at UF Cancer Hospital. The biomass project will diversify the community’s energy sources, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and provide base-load power generation when solar panels can’t.

    Let’s be guided by facts, science and reason, and not by the voices (many from outside the local community) that are obscuring the facts for their own purposes.

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