Biomass Gets Traverse City Go Ahead

aerial - downtown Traverse City

Just in time for Earth Day’s 40th celebration, the Traverse City Light and Power board voted last night to proceed with more due diligence — analysis, fuel studies, engineering designs, zoning decisions, many other data points — to acquire 10 mw of renewable energy with a state-of-the-art clean renewable wood biomass plant. Congratulations to the staff and board for making a tough and courageous decision. And thank you to Skip Pruss, director of the state Department of Labor and Economic Growth, and to Governor Jennifer Granholm, who today was recognized for the Leadership in Renewable Energy Award by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. Both Pruss and the governor provided vigorous support for the TCL&P proposal to build a small wood biomass plant.

Disappointing in all of the work that went into last night’s vote was the fact-thin, emotional, sanctimonious activism of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, which allowed and enabled extremists to hijack their organization. Not once did NMEAC offer a credible alternative for generating baseload power in an era of fossil fuel dependency that has produced documentable and visible damage to Michigan. Instead NMEAC embraced wild assertions about the risks to the region’s forests, the supposed threat from ash, the plant’s emissions, even providing a forum for irresponsible fear-mongering. At one of its forums in February a NMEAC-sponsored extremist stated as bald fact an outright fear-provoking falsehood —  that an old and much larger wood biomass plant in Cadillac burned tires for fuel.

It doesn’t and never did. How do I know? As a senior staff member of the Michigan Land Use Institute I helped a local environmental organization develop and execute the public interest strategy that denied the plant from obtaining a state permit for burning tires as fuel. NMEAC never corrected that whopper or any of the others it fostered.

TCL&P showed steady resolve and exceptional resilience in hearing from citizens, responding to their concerns at a time when the plain fact is that nothing they would say would satisfy the polemical, polarized conversation that NMEAC encouraged and that Traverse City’s weekly and daily newspaper inflamed. Once again, though, facts led to a reasoned decision and Traverse City’s reputation as a center of green progress was enhanced.

— Keith Schneider

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