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New biomass plant attracts protestors

An opening ceremony for a $50 million (€35 million) biomass plant in Eugene, Oregon, US, owned by Seneca Sawmill, took place on 5 May 2011. The plant has been operational since February 2011.

With the ability to handle woodchips, bark and slash material sourced from the logging industry, the plant generates 19MW of renewable energy, benefitting around 13,000 households in Lane County. Electricity produced at the new plant is sold directly to electricity, water and steam heat provider EWEB. This contract is due to expire in February 2026.

'We're fully utilising the entire tree on one site so we bring the entire tree to Seneca, either in the form of logs for one of our tree saw mills. And we are now brining in the slash that's leftover and creating not just a renewable energy source in electricity for our local community, but also steam to go to our existing dry kilns which allowed us to eliminated the use of natural gas,' says Todd Payne, Seneca Sawmills' project manager for the biomass plant.

However, not everyone agreed with the new plant and the opening ceremony attracted protestors from the Cascadia Forest Defenders group, three of which were arrested for disorderly conduct.

With the view that the biomass facility will create pollution for the surrounding area by burning slash, one protestor was caught on film chaining himself to the underneath of a car, which was parked in the plant's car park.

As Jason Gonzalez, a representative of the Cascadia Forest Defenders group, explains: 'This very toxic air will be released into their neighbourhood that's already being just completely covered in chip boarding making facilities and other facilities. The area is surrounded by smoke stacks and this is just another smoke stack. The simple matter is no matter how Seneca wants to paint it, clean energy doesn't come out of a smoke stack.'