Public hearing scheduled on air permit for proposed biomass energy plant

RALEIGH – State officials have scheduled a Sept. 4 public hearing to gather comments on an air quality permit for a proposed biomass energy plant in Bladen County.

Prestage AgEnergy of NC, LLC, has applied for an air quality permit to operate a facility that would burn poultry bedding and other biomass materials to produce energy at 15855 N.C. Hwy. 87 in Tar Heel. The N.C. Division of Air Quality, or DAQ, has prepared a draft permit that sets limits for all applicable air quality standards for the proposed facility.

The division has scheduled a public hearing on the permit for 7-10 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Bladen County Courthouse, 106 West Broad St., Elizabethtown.

The proposed plant would burn biomass materials to produce electric power and steam. The facility plans to burn used poultry bedding as its primary fuel, but the permit would allow other types of clean cellulosic biomass fuels, including sawdust, wood chips and bark, and vegetative agricultural byproducts such as hay, straw and corn stalks. Electricity would be sold to utility companies and steam would be provided to the adjacent Smithfield Packing plant in Tar Heel.

Under the permit, Prestage must demonstrate it would comply with state and federal rules for controlling particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and other air emissions. The plant would use a range of control equipment to reduce its emissions of air pollutants.

The public hearing will provide an opportunity for people to comment on the draft air permit for the proposed plant. People who wish to speak at the hearing should plan to limit their time to three minutes or less. The hearing officer will have the discretion to further limit speaking times, if necessary, to accommodate the number of speakers and time constraints.

The DAQ also will accept written comments emailed or postmarked no later than Sept. 11. All written comments should be sent to the hearing officer, Ron Slack, at , or DENR, N.C. Division of Air Quality, Mooresville Regional Office, Attn: Ron Slack, 610 East Center Ave., Suite 301, Mooresville, N.C. 28115.

The draft Prestage AgEnergy air permit and review can be seen at DAQ offices in Raleigh and Fayetteville, as well as this page on the DAQ website: .

Prestage AgEnergy has filed a separate application to meet a Best Available Control Technology, or BACT requirements, which the DAQ will determine on a case-by-case basis for affected air pollution controls. Any biomass combustion process at a new renewable energy facility that delivers electric power to a utility is required to meet BACT under N.C. General Statute 62-133.8(g). Prestage’s registration as a new renewable energy facility and compliance with the law would make it eligible for higher electric rates under the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.

Addresses for DAQ offices and further information about air quality issues can be found at the division’s website: .

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