EFSEC discusses proposed cogen facility

Published on Thu, Dec 11, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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EFSEC discusses proposed cogen facility

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

A public hearing regarding the proposed BP cogeneration facility was held Monday night � the last time the Washington state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) will hear from the public as it deliberates the proposed project this week.

The project was proposed on June 10, 2002, when BP West Coast Products, L.L.C. (BP) submitted an application to EFSEC to construct and operate the BP Cherry Point cogeneration project, a 720-megawatt natural gas-fired combustion turbine electrical cogeneration facility. The proposed facility will be constructed on the BP property in Birch Bay, facing west, about 100 feet from Grandview Road. Associated with the project is a 1,400-foot natural gas pipeline and an approximately one mile electrical transmission line.�

�Steam is the lifeblood of a refinery. True cogeneration requires a steam host,� BP�s public affairs representative Mike Abendhoff said earlier. �This project will allow us to produce steam and electricity and still reduce emissions.�

Existing infrastructure would be utilized, but current boilers would be replaced, thus reducing pollution. �There would be a net reduction in air emissions and water usage, and noise increases are essentially inaudible,� he said.

Extensive noise studies were performed by the refinery, and determined that local residents would not be affected by the project. In addition, Abendhoff said, BP would produce aggressive wetland mitigation, constructing three acres for every one acre used north of Grandview Road � land located near an area of Terrell Creek that is currently undergoing restoration efforts by local and county groups.

It is these concerns for air, water and other environmental factors that sparked several residents from the Birch Bay community to speak against the proposed project at the last public hearing held Monday evening at the Blaine performing arts center.

Resident Kathy Berg, who is also vice-president of the Birch Bay Steering Committee, said she wanted a noise study performed in the Cottonwood neighborhood of Birch Bay. �The Cottonwood neighborhood is the most heavily impacted,� she said, noting BP has yet to study the noise effects there as they have in other places. �The air and the noise will blow directly over most of the population.�

Patrick Alesse, a Birch Bay resident and business owner, approached the podium at the hearing and asked for a few moments of silence. Placing his hand in the air, he then said to the listening EFSEC council, �Sounds good, doesn�t it?�

Noise, he said, has been a problem for the local community for years, and he is concerned that more will be created because of the project.

Alan Friedlob, co-founder of Smart Growth Birch Bay, said he is concerned what impacts � including effluents and particulate matter � the new facility will have on the community and its residents. He requested that BP and its corporate sponsors provide $50,000 annually for citizen-directed research, be held accountable for any future detoxification measures, and enter into negotiations with Trillium Corporation and other companies to purchase area lands for conservation through the Whatcom Land Trust and other entities.

Blaine high school principal Dan Newell spoke in favor of the project, noting it would add a number of benefits to the Blaine school district. Currently, he said, citizens are paying $1.73 per thousand of assessed valued. Should the facility be approved, citizens would pay $1.23 per thousand � a savings of $75 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home.

�Our students have been exposed to an industry in our area,� Newell said, noting the projected employment positions and opportunities.

But Alesse said the project should not be approved simply because the facility will generate taxes for the community and state. �That�s no reason for us to choose this project,� Alesse said. �These schools were good when we were poor. And today we�re rich.�

Many of those who spoke in favor of the project are not Birch Bay residents � including representative Doug Erickson, Anvil Corporation president John Macpherson, and Bellingham Technical College�s Paul Humphrey � a fact noted by one woman, Kay Schuhmacher.

�We are the people who are most affected,� she said.�We are worried about our health and welfare. These people who spoke for the project came from Blaine and Bellingham, they don�t live here.�

Projected jobs
According to Abendhoff, about 800 people are currently employed at the facility. An additional 200 temporary jobs will be available for the project�s construction phase, and upon completion, about 35 good-paying jobs.

So will those jobs be filled by local people? �It will be a combination. I would say the bulk of new jobs would be local,� Abendhoff said.

EFSEC schedule
EFSEC began adjudicative proceedings on Monday and will continue through today, listening to testimony, evidence and information from those for and against the project. Following the completion of the hearings, EFSEC will make a recommendation to the governor, who will then approve or deny the project.

For more information about the proposed project, contact Irina Makarow, of EFSEC, via phone at 956-2047 or mail at P.O. Box 43172, Olympia, WA, 98504-3172. Visit online at www.efsec.wa.gov for more details.

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