Live in Loyalton?

Do you want to live in Loyalton?

The real Loyalton is a mill town where forest products are turned into capital. Is that where you want to live?

The Air Quality Management District is holding a public hearing on May 3 at 7:00P.M. at the Loyalton Social Hall to discuss citizen concerns about the SPI cogen plant particulate release.

There will no doubt be scientific expertise present, as there has been in the past, and Gretchen Bennitt, Air Pollution Control Officer will discuss a Particulate Matter Reduction Plan for Loyalton.

There are a couple of implications to this meeting.

  1. Do you want to live in Loyalton? Welcome to Loyalton. It is not, and never has been, a gentleman’s retreat, it is a town of sweat and sinew. One of the main reasons Loyalton is sick right now is that it isn’t working enough. When working people can’t work they often decay, turning to drink and self pity. The gentleperson’s retreat is a few miles northwest, in Graeagle.
  2. This editor is asthmatic, and has been on medication for twenty years. I can tell you the air quality without special equipment. Rotten air is a drag. Welcome to Loyalton, where I once lived across the ditch from an SPI mill that filled the air with soot, dust, and fine wood particles. If you wanted to live in Loyalton you breathed the air there was, no different from thousands of lumber mill towns, mining and smelting towns, wheat farming communities, or any town composed of sinew and sweat.

    The cogen plant is a fresh breeze compared to those days.

    Loyalton’s best chance for life here and now continues to be the anemic forest product market, this time turning biomass to electricity. The jobs created right now by the cogen plant, and the future jobs such installations represent are badly needed by the majority of the people in Loyalton, the Valley, and indeed the county. Loyalton, sick as it is from inactivity, is still the industrial engine of Sierra County.

    This is the reality. Now, everyone from the city who attends the meeting should first ask themselves, Do I want to live in Loyalton, not the Loyalton of my imagination, but the real, sinewed, sweating Loyalton?

  3. Do you want to live under a Particulate Matter Reduction Plan? Here’s the point: Loyalton is in a small "bay" in the valley, with mountains on two sides and a bottleneck canyon behind. Air tends to stagnate there, and this isn’t conjecture, one need only drive toward Loyalton from the west on a still winter morning to see that. As the Valley heats and cools, air moves up and down the canyon just as tides would in a bay on the coast.

Sometimes the air moves back and forth, instead of clearing, at least until the wind comes up. Reno, Nevada in the Truckee Meadows has a similar situation, and "no burn/no wood stove" days.

A "particulate matter" study would find lots of seasonal particulate material, including pollen, dust from roads and fields, exhaust from autos, trucks and heavy and farm equipment, lots of wood smoke from stoves, gases and material from rotting vegetation, and outflow from the cogen plant.

Such a study might actually impact other sources of particulate matter more than the cogen plant. It could, technically, be determined that Loyalton has too many old wood stoves to operate on some winter days with inversion events. It might be found that agricultural particulate matter is too high.

In short, what started as a swipe at the cogen plant might come around to bite everyone on the ass.

The county has become modestly acquainted with Gretchen Bennitt. She is a community oriented, solution oriented person with mad skills and a posse of air experts. Ms. Bennitt will help Loyalton as the government helps, in an even-handed, even myopic way, according to the requirements of the law and the realities of the situation. If the community is willing, the Particulate Matter Reduction Plan will certainly reduce particulate matter.

Some kinds of trades can’t be made. Most likely, summertime road dust can’t be traded for carbon dioxide or sooty particles. It might, however, be possible to trade wood stove pollution for cogen pollution, meaning people would pay more for heat, but have jobs through the winter time. It might be possible to trade open burning particulates for cogen particulates in a carbon negative trade by turning slash and removed fuels into electricity at the plant.

Not being an expert, I can’t really guess what Ms. Bennitt’s staff will propose, but I have a proposition. Let’s curtail the driving of Lincolns and Caddys and big Buicks, which are carbon polluting, in exchange for cogen credits. That will help some folks decide, do they really want to live in Loyalton?

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