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Three biomass plants? Hundreds of jobs?
Local economic leader calls governor’s program a ‘humongous’ boost for KlamathLocal economic developers say a push for biomass statewide could lead to three biomass plants in Klamath County, creating hundreds of new jobs.
Trey Senn, executive director of the Klamath County Economic Development Association, called political support for biomass a potentially “humongous” boost for the local economy.In Klamath County, plans are to build a biomass facility on Collins Products property off Highway 66 west of town.
“We seem to have everybody on board with (biomass) now,” Senn said.Senn’s comments came after Gov. John Kitzhaber announced a biomass grant program as a way to make the state one of the country’s leaders in biomass production, energy and economic development.
The governor’s program would distribute $200,000 to Oregon forest products companies forthe purpose of conducting feasibility studies to see if more biomass plants can be built in the state. Kitzhaber called the grant program a chance to “promote eff icient use of biomass while strengthening business, promoting forest health BIOMASS and creating jobs.”
U.S. sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., also are pushing to open up oppor tunities for increased biomass production.
Not everyone’s on board with biomassNot everyone is excited by the push for increased biomass production in Oregon.
The announcement in April of last year that a biomass facility would be built on Collins Products property, along Highway 66 just outside of Klamath Falls, sparked protests from many residents who live in the area.Paul Fouch lives on Highway 66, one-half mile from the proposed biomass site. Fouch and other residents rejuvenated a once-defunct non-profit group, Save Our Rural Oregon, in an effort to stop the biomass facility from being built.
Fouch said the group has gathered 200 signatures from area residents who say they don’t want the plant to be built at the proposed site.“ We’re frustrated,” Fouch said. “ This is about property rights.” Fouch said many residents resent the fact they live next to property that is zoned heavy industrial. They also say that smoke from the plant would worsen already poor air quality conditions.
Fouch added plenty of viable alternate sites exist for the project that won’t decrease residential home values and pose health risks.
Funds availableForest products companies have until April 15 to submit applications for the state’s biomass grant program to the Oregon Department of Energy.
The department will then process the applications and award grant money to anywhere between six and 12 companies. The grant money would be distributed in the fall.Policy analyst Matt Krumenauer with the state energy department called the grants a “multiple benefit” project for rural communities, an effort to jump start production in areas near large and untapped forestlands.
“The forest industry is a part of a lot of these communities’ heritage,” Krumenauer said. “This is a way to continue that heritage.”Krumenauer said the Energy Department has been pushing the last several years to create new biomass projects, and officials there were excited to partner with the governor’s office to administer the grants.
Forest products companies with questions about the governor’s grant program are asked to call Energy Department Communications Director Diana Enright, at 503-378-8278 503-378-8278 .
Page Updated: Monday March 14, 2011 02:56 AM Pacific
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