Poor air quality prompts request for biomass moratorium in two Oregon counties

One of Iberdrola Renewables biomass facilities would be built adjacent to its natural gas plant in Klamath Falls.

One of Iberdrola Renewables biomass facilities would be built adjacent to its natural gas plant in Klamath Falls. 

A spate of air pollution bad enough to be in violation of the Clean Air Act and comparable to the well-known pollution in Beijing has prompted an activist group to request an emergency moratorium on biomass plant development in southeastern Oregon's Lake and Klamath counties.

Save Our Rural Oregon announced Wednesday that the group had sent letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Gov. John Kitzhaber requesting that biomass and biofuels projects in Klamath Falls and Lakeview be put on hold and no new or modified air quality discharge permits related to the projects be issues.

The group singles out three such projects in the works. Klamath Bio Energy is working on approval for a plant in Klamath Falls. Iberdrola Renewables has two in the works, one in Lakeview and another in Klamath Falls.

Iberdrola announced last October that the proposed Lakeview plant โ€” which halted construction in 2011 โ€” would emit twice the originally proposed amount of emissions.

"If they were already built, biomass projects proposed for both Klamath Falls and Lakeview would not only have made the air quality situation much worse but under anticipated sanctions placed upon us by EPA and DEQ starting in 2014, the biomass facilities would be exempt from shutting down and allowed to continue to burn while we citizens would be fined for heating our own homes,โ€ says Paul Fouch, executive director of Save Our Rural Oregon, in a press release.

Save Our Rural Oregon reports that the region has the worst concentration of pollution-causing fine particulate matter in the country. In January Lakeview residents experienced particulate matter levels five times the national standard.

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