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Biomass producers want role in pollution reduction plan

ATLANTA - Environmentalists and advocates for the biomass industry criticized state environmental officials Tuesday for not incorporating either conservation or renewable energy into a plan for reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Georgia has until March to submit its version of what is known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If the state fails to meet that deadline, the federal rule would take effect without input from Georgia, Jimmy Johnston, program manager for the state Environmental Protection Division's Air Protection Branch, told members of the Georgia Board of Natural Resources.

Johnston said EPD officials decided not to include proposals to improve energy efficiency in Georgia or develop alternative sources of energy because both issues are on the agenda of the 18-member Governor's Energy Policy Council appointed last week by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The panel of energy industry representatives, researchers, environmental advocates and state and local government officials is due to deliver a state energy plan by December.

"We thought it would be inappropriate to move ahead of the state energy plan,'' Johnston said.

But a representative of Summit Energy Partners, a biomass producer interested in Georgia, said the state is missing an opportunity by not including in its rule incentives to encourage the construction of biomass plants.

Brad Carver said electricity produced from biomass has less price volatility than either coal or natural gas, which have experienced major increases in the past year.

He said biomass plants also would create four times more jobs for Georgia than their coal-fired counterparts because the raw material to produce it comes from inside the state.

"This would be a big boon for the agricultural community and timber industry in Georgia,'' Carver said.

Patty Durand, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, also urged board members to consider including incentives for improvements in energy efficiency in the new rule.

She said Georgians now use 25 percent more electricity per capita than consumers in other Southeastern states.

"The cleanest kilowatt hour is the one that is not produced,'' Durand said.