Oneida biomass plant site not immune to local opposition

By Lisa Gibson | August 08, 2011

Working on a new project site in Green Bay, Wis., Oneida Seven Generations Corp. is still experiencing small local opposition similar to what it encountered at its first proposed site in Ashwaubenon, Wis., despite the fact that the Green Bay economic development department offered the site.

A number of other Wisconsin cities offered locations earlier this year for the proposed 5-megawatt biomass power plant upon hearing of the local opposition in Ashwaubenon, which is under different regulations because it is a tribal site with federal trust status. In February, Oneida Seven Generations Corp., a subsidiary of the Oneida Tribe of Indians, chose a Hurlbut Street location in Green Bay for its $23 million plant, but Pete king, project manager, said then that he still expected some local opposition at the new site.

“The opposition to the facility is a small, but vocal, group that has been receiving encouragement and help from out-of-state organizations that favor wind power and/or zero waste programs,” King said. “A few claim that OSGC’s facility is incineration, which it is not. It is also important to understand that in this day and age, it is not unusual to see opposition to just about any type of project.”

Opponents are arguing the usual points in Green Bay, including unnecessary pollution and public health detriments. But the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which is currently evaluating whether to issue an air permit, has said it will make its decision based on whether neighbors have sound reasons for opposing it. The DNR has also made a preliminary determination that the application meets state and federal air pollution control requirements and its own Environmental Assessment has determined the proposed project will not cause significant adverse environmental effects, according to King. The Department of Energy also recently issued its draft Environmental Assessment on the project, stating it does not pose any significant adverse environmental impacts. 

The plant will process about 150 tons of municipal solid waste per day, using what Oneida Seven Generations calls pyrolysis gasification.

“OSGC has done extensive public outreach and generated strong support from the city of Green Bay, local businesses and organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Sustainable Green Bay, and from individuals and neighbors including the neighborhood association that is closest to the site,” King said. He added that the project is on track to receive final permits and approvals this fall, and construction will follow.