My intention was to learn of the Citizens Advisory Panel (CAP) operated and dealt with potential community issues, including truck traffic, odors and emissions. In general, the meeting minutes are short on details regarding the technical discussions that were surely held, especially during the meetings where environmental permitting issues were raised, but in general, they report a straightforward process that engaged and informed the community.
The CAP process happened in two phases, first as a City of Benson effort that started in April 2001 and went through October 2003. After that, and the subject of a future post, the effort was sponsored by Fibrominn for the remaining time it was in operation. The first group was a 12 member panel of local citizens chosen to represent the Benson community and provide public input during the development, construction and operation of the Fibrominn project. Their mission statement was: “Citizens and Fibrominn working together to transmit and receive information and provide feedback to ensure community ownership and awareness.
During the very first session of the Benson CAP, the following assumptions, concerns, and issues were discussed:
- The trucks will be cleaned and disinfected before leaving the plant
- The goal is to have zero discharge of water
- The signing of the Excel Energy purchase agreement, with a reference to Minnesota’s Biomass energy mandate
- Assumptions that other types of biomass would be used at the plant
- Goal of 500K tons of biomass/manure fuels annually
- About one half of the manure contracts were signed
- Storage period for litter of 5-10 days
As the meetings progressed, the discussions moved on to the types of fees that would be paid to the city, including: land lease, backup power and generation fees, sewer fees, four kinds of water fees. There is also a discussion about the arrangement of various tax exemptions. The types of real estate property taxes to be made, and wetlands management requirements, since the site had proximity to an airport where designations had been previously made – this also created a downstream issue on permitting the plant’s exhaust stack.
A couple of the meeting minutes that might be of particular issues to Page County readers are the September 2001 meeting, which specifically discusses odors, steam emissions, and the like; and the March 2002 minutes, which discusses the selection of the construction contractors, time frames for construction and questions about construction labor. These links follow today's post.
As the CAP effort continued, permitting occupied a lot of the discussion. The process took upwards of a year with periods of public review and comment and revision to the submissions. In July 2002, there was a discussion of exhaust limits, permissible types of biomass fuels, and even road dust and noise impacts. At one point during the permitting process, enough time had passed that the design of the exhaust systems was reviewed and changed – with a positive impact on overall water use at the plant by changing to an air cooled system.
The final meeting under Benson sponsorship was held in October 2003. By that time, apparently construction was underway – I should mention that a Canadian firm was selected, and there was broad discussion about this decision. The other main issue at the time was the FAA clearance for stack height due to proximity to the Benson airport – this issue had been resolved by that time.
Next post will look at the Fibrominn CAP process, which began after the Benson group ended in 2003. Reference links in today’s post:
Main page about the CAP process: http://www.fibrominncap.org/index.html
September 2001 minutes with discussions about odors, steam emissions, etc.: http://www.fibrominncap.org/minutes/2001-09-25%20Benson%20CAP.pdf
March 2002, selection of Canadian contractor and general questions about construction: