Aspen Power construction resumes, air quality permit re-issued

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Construction has resumed at the projected multi-million dollar Aspen Power Biomass Plant that's being built in North Lufkin.  Aspen Power had to get past a series of legal hurdles after its air quality permit was set aside which halted construction.  A week ago a settlement was reached with opponents of the plant and that allowed construction to start back up.

According to a press release from Aspen Power, "On October 26, 2009, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality re-issued an air quality permit to Aspen Power, LLC to authorize construction and operation of its proposed 50-megawatt biomass power plant in Lufkin."  The press release also states, "On October 27, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concurred in the permit and informed the company it could resume construction that had been suspended since last March.  Based on additional emission controls proposed by Aspen, both agencies now deem the plant a minor source which will utilize best available control technology to limit air emissions."

In a news story we posted on back on August 27, we said Administrative Law Judge Sarah Ramos recommended that Aspen Power be denied its permit.  We reported that the judge determined Aspen Power did not meet standards set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  We should have said that Judge Ramos found Aspen Power's permit application did not comply with legal requirements.  

In regards to that issue, Friday's press release states, "Aspen's originally proposed emission controls were found by a Texas administrative law judge to result in emissions compliant with all applicable air quality standards.  In order to resolve ongoing litigation and challenges to its permit application, Aspen agreed to the additional controls, including the installation of selective catalytic reduction technology to further reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.  Aspen also agreed to add catalytic oxidation and enlarge its electrostatic precipitator to further reduce organic and particulate emissions.  Furthermore, as part of its settlement with the previously protesting parties, the company is enhancing its traffic control, noise reduction and dust abatement plans."

The Aspen Power construction project is expected to bring 75 construction jobs and once operational the plant is expected to directly employ approximately 50 local residents, which company officials say will result in the creation of approximately 200 additional permanent jobs in the Lufkin area.  And, based on an economic impact study paid for by the City of Lufkin, the Aspen project will add an estimated $236 million to the local economy during its first 10 years of existence.

Aspen Power is a renewable energy project which will burn clean wood debris generated by timber harvesting, sawmill and municipal maintenance/storm cleanup activities.  The plant is scheduled to open in 2010.

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