Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division will hold a 6:30 p.m. public hearing Thursday to discuss a proposed $70 million biomass plant near Wadley, Ga., that would burn shredded tires and wood products to make electricity.
Opponents of the North Star Jefferson Renewable Energy project, including a group calling itself the Jefferson Environmental Defense Intiative, contend the plant will create air pollution, emit mercury and consume excessive volumes of water.
Supporters say it will create 25 jobs and beneficially dispose of waste tires and residue from timber harvesting – while producing up to 24 megawatts of power.
The meeting, which will focus on the company’s request for a state Air Quality Operating Permit, will be held at the Wadley Community Complex, 134 West College St.. EPD officials who continue to evaluate the permit request will make a presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session and the formal acceptance of comments about the project.
“Residents and interested parties need to be aware of the pertinent air quality regulations and the air permitting process,” said Eric Cornwell, the manager of EPD’s Stationary Source Permitting Program. “We will consider all air quality related comments prior to making a decision whether to recommend permit issuance.”
The company is working with Jefferson County officials to acquire 25 acres for the plant, which would burn about 133,500 tons per year of forest products and about 38,500 tons of shredded tires, or “tire-derived fuels.”
Using tire fuel makes the biomass mix burn hotter – and therefore cleaner – by eliminating incomplete combustion from using pure forest products that have a high moisture content, according to the company, whose application states that tire materials would be brought in as fuel and not shredded onsite.
Cornwell said there are about 10 biomass fuel power plants already permitted to operate in Georgia, but only one of them – a facility in Rabun Gap that burns exclusively wood products – is actually in operation.