Commissioner Hutchinson Supports Biomass But Will Ask For Site Changes Reply

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Comment:  Make no mistake – Commissioner Hutchinson continues to support biomass incinerators as “green” alternative energy even while the data has determined these incinerators fail to mitigate “climate change” and present and source of hazardous pollution.  Hutch’s position is typical of politicians who have made commitments to entities like IFAS at the University of Florida and spin-offs in the forestry business.

Hutch’s effort to help is an effort at PR damage control with ultimate expectations that the biomass plant will go online.

Does Hutch support the City of Gainesville’s purchase of the biomass plant while the pollution issues remain unresolved?  I’ll attempt to get an answer to his question. – HWS

This email From Alachua County Commissioner Hutchinson to about a dozen residents in the affected area of Biomass pollution from noise, fugutive dust and toxic, airborne haze

Dear Alachua County Resident:

?????????????????????????????????????I am writing to people who have contacted the County Commission regarding problems associated with the operations of the GREC biomass plant. I have visited the area four times in the last few weeks, including in the wee hours soon after the initial complaints were received. I have talked with residents, GRU staff, elected officials, County environmental and code enforcement staff, and sound experts. This is a frustrating and dangerous problem that I truly believe everybody is taking seriously.

The motion that I proposed and that passed the County Commission on a unanimous vote last Tuesday (11/8) is appended to the end of this message. I discussed its implications with GREC officials two days later.

What GREC officials explained is that the whooshing “jet engine” sound is coming from the top of the stack; the stack is a tube through which fast-moving exhaust is creating a horn effect. They have designed and ordered baffles to act as a muffler, and they expect them to be installed within weeks. Other sounds that I clearly heard, of clanking and squeaking machinery (from fuel handling and conveyors), has been acknowledged and is being worked on.

GREC also recognizes the problems of fugitive dust, and they are looking at solutions including re-locating the main fuel stack, misting, changing operational procedures, etc.

My opinion, which I expressed to them, is that the solution is ultimately going to require containment in structures such as silos, bunkers, or other buildings, and that the sooner all parties come to this conclusion and started dealing with it, the better.

You are being impacted with the brunt of the biomass plant, and this is an unfair burden. It is difficult to be patient under these circumstances, and we are doing what we can to pressure GREC into making the additional investments that will be needed to make the problems disappear. My recommendation is to keep reporting the noise, odor, and dust issues; organizing this information is important as it will help in regulatory or legal proceedings in the future.

What is not useful, and can cause your message to become distorted or discounted, are unsubstantiated claims, conspiracy theories, or accusations that nobody cares.

I have been involved in many environmental battles over the decades, and there are lessons from battles won and battles lost that are instructive.

As somebody who supports biomass as a bridge fuel into a more sustainable future, nobody is more disappointed than myself about how the start-up of this plant has gone. Getting to the best possible solution is going to require balancing diplomacy with regulatory and legal muscle, and my hope is that you will help us recognize when one or the other is most likely to lead to success.

Please feel free to contact me at any time with your thoughts,

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Robert Hutchinson
Alachua County Commissioner
(352) 256-6043 [cell]
– – – – – –
From the Board of County Commissioners draft minutes of October 8, 2013:
1.        Send a letter from the Chair to GREC and the Gainesville City Commission requesting that County Staff and consultants be allowed to participate in all discussions of mitigation options for noise and dust issues.
2.        Provide notice to GREC, the City of Gainesville, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that Alachua County intends to intervene in the permitting proceedings, with our intent to oppose final operational permitting if satisfactory progress is not made in controlling noise and fugitive dust.
3.        Notify GREC with a letter from the County Attorney that Alachua County, as an affected party, will participate in public nuisance litigation if acceptable progress is not made in reducing noise, dust, and odors affecting the County’s property and employees.
4.        Request that the County Attorney and County Manager bring back to the BoCC any recommended amendments to the County’s noise ordinance, including the decibel standards.  This should also include how many municipalities request that the County ordinance be applied within City boundaries.
The motion carried 5-0.

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