Proposed Eastern Washington biomass facility debated

Dec 8, 2011

A large biomass plant proposed for the Yakima area, is winning praise from supporters. But critics say this plant could pollute Eastern Washington’s air.

The 20 megawatt plant would start up in 2013 and use slash piles and other wood debris from the Yakama Indian Reservation as fuel.

Rick Gustafson is a professor of bioresearch engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. He says the Yakama forestry program is well run.

A biomass plant would be another way for the tribes to make money from their forest. Gustafson says the plant would be easier on the power grid than up-and-down wind farms.

“You can manage the biomass supply and you can have the output more or less managed in a way that the utility can handle it and keep going all year long," Gustafson says.

But a Seattle activist with a state-wide group called No Biomass Burn says this plant will release tiny particulates into the air. Duff Badgley says particles released into the air when a plant like this burns wood can be breathed in and make people sick.

The company proposing the plant could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio