Sierra Pacific Industries granted EPA permit to expand its existing wood-fueled electricity plant in Anderson, California, to 31 MW, up from 4 MW currently; electricity from plant will be used to power company's sawmill, with excess power to be sold

REDDING, California , April 29, 2014 () – After years of appeals and hearings, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a permit allowing Sierra Pacific Industries of Anderson to expand its biomass electricity plant in Anderson.

Mark Pawlicki, a spokesman for SPI, said the permit, issued Friday, was good news for the company.

"It should have been up and running by now. There were delays and appeals, but we persisted," Pawlicki said. "It is a very big deal. We think it's good for us, good for the community and good for renewable power."

The permit allows SPI to expand its existing 4 megawatt power plant to 31 megawatts. The plant mainly burns wood waste from SPI's sawmills in Anderson and Shasta Lake. It will also burn slash from forest logging and thinning, Pawlicki said.

While SPI officials were looking forward to beginning construction on the plant after Memorial Day, Celeste Draisner, who had worked with a group called Shasta County Citizens for Clean Air, said she was disappointed the permit was issued.

"It's devastating. It really is. The government wants to build the factory as dirty as they can, without best available control technology," Draisner said.

Gerardo Rios, the manager of the EPA's permits office, said Monday that additional emission controls were not placed on the plant because it was already clean burning.

The permit regulates nitrous oxide emissions, fine particulate matter pollution, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Nitrous oxide contributes to ozone pollution.

The plant's maximum emissions for nitrous oxide is 267 tons a year, 472 tons a year for carbon monoxide and 41 tons a year of fine particulate matter. The plant will also emit 432,439 tons per year of carbon dioxide, according to the permit.

Issues surrounding the plant's greenhouse gas emissions led to the Shasta County Planning Department officials in 2011 twice rewriting the greenhouse gas portions of an environmental impact report on the plant.

Draisner's group had filed appeals with the EPA trying to stop the plant. They were able to get the agency to hold a public hearing on the permit, held in Anderson in December. Most of those who spoke during the hearing were in favor of the plant.

Pawlicki said the plant will cost more than $40 million and take about a year to build. He estimated about 50 people would be involved in construction, and SPI would employ about 18 people at the plant after it is completed.

The Shasta County Air Quality Management District still needs to issue a permit to SPI, but Pawlicki said hearings have already been held on their application.

Electricity generated from the plant would be used to power SPI's sawmill. Excess power will be sold, Pawlicki said.

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