Air Quality Management Board meets in Loyalton
The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management Board met in Loyalton at the
Social Hall Monday, January 24. Boardmembers Thrall, Scholfield, Owens,
Huebner and alternate Adams were present, as were Gretchen Bennitt, Air
Pollution Control Officer and George Orzanich Air Pollution Control
Officer from Quincy. Jim Turner, manager of the Loyalton Cogen plant
was also available, as were about 20 staff and residents.
Among the business discussed by the Board is the Loyalton Particulate Matter Management Report. Read the report:
The report is the result of a study prompted by complaints from Loyalton
and “rural Loyalton” about soot or ash deposited on cars and windows,
and because of alleged health concerns caused by smells and soot in
Much of the information in the meeting has been discussed before,
however there was some new evidence that the Loyalton Cogen plant has
been emitting “nuisance” particles. Other possible sources of
particulate and other pollution were discussed.
Here’s the news: The Loyalton Cogen plant, when it’s running, is the
source of some nuisance particles. They are very large and do not
constitute a violation of the permit. They don’t pose a health risk.
SPI put $800,000 in the plant, including reducing the amount of ash. As
has been discussed before, there are different fuels available to the
plant; most economical are fine organic materials re-directed from
landfills. Far better fuels, and fuels that should be available to the
cogen plant are woody fuels such as hazard fuel removal.
The availability of those fuels is dependent on a number of factors
including transportation costs and successful forest service sales. The
cogen plant uses a great deal of landfill material, but a dwindling
amount of forest fuel. Unfortunately, the plant is currently closed.
A great deal of effort goes into making sure that nothing but cellulose
goes into the burner. Plastic material, painted material, indeed,
anything but vegetative material is screened out. Deliveries are
tested, and if a sample of the material fails, the entire load is
It is clear that SPI, who paid for some of the testing at the plant, is
running the plant as cleanly as possible. It would help if the plant
could get more woody biomass. Quentin Youngblood, Ranger at the
Sierraville Ranger District of the U. S. Forest Service, though not at
this meeting, has spoken in other venues strongly in favor of hazard
fuel removal resulting in biomass for the cogen plant.
Lee Adams said it: Eight hundred thousand dollars is a considerable
amount, and all human activities have consequences. What are we willing
When the cogen plant re-opens there will again be large ash particles.
Sierra Pacific Industries is following a plan to reduce those particles,
but they are not dangerous to people, and they do not constitute a
violation of the permit. It is clear there is no reason the cogen plant
What was not clear at the meeting is if Loyalton wants to cogen plant to
run, or not. If enough people complain about the ash when the plant
re-opens, it will make it difficult to keep the generator spinning. It
is clear that the Air Quality Management Board feels that the cogen
plant is legal, and more than legal, the materials sent through the
cogen plant pollute far less than the same materials burned openly, or
even worse, burned poorly, as in wildfire.
The SPI cogen plant uses 10,000 truckloads of biomass a year. It represents jobs, and many more future jobs.
For example, the cogen plant is burning a high “yard waste” to “woody
biomass” ratio because that is mostly what is available. There would be
more woody biomass available if there were more thinning in the woods.
There would be more thinning in the woods if there were a better price
for biomass. There would be more profit in biomass if the trucks moving
in didn’t burn expensive diesel. If there were a steady supply of
biomass, the Loyalton Cogen plant could help by providing the location,
and heat, to promote a small biomass to motor fuel plant.
The current cogen plant is not the most efficient plant possible, but
investment would come if it were clear the plant, and the region, could
sustain a profit in turning dangerous overgrowth in the forest into
relatively clean renewable power. The cogen plant is like a magic
lantern that might turn the threat of wildfire into an industry that one
day might replace our vanished timber market.
Does Loyalton want to be a part of that potential growth in green forest
energy? If so, the community has to find a voice for that
understanding and willingness.
Over and over we hear people complaining that not enough is being done
to encourage an economy in Loyalton. We have what might be considered
one fragile resource: the aging cogen plant and the industrial land it
If you don’t like the sound of jets, don’t buy a house near an airport.
Don’t like the smell of cowshit? Don’t buy a house in a cow county.
Don’t like the fall out from the cogen plant? Don’t buy a house in the
southern part of Loyalton/rural Loyalton.
What will it be, Loyalton? Do you want a place in a biomass future?