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Revised Cohasset Wood Plant Environmental Review: It’ll Be a ‘carbon Sink’ – Duluth News Tribune

Revised Cohasset Wood Plant Environmental Review: It’ll Be a ‘carbon Sink’ – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH The state will have enough aspen to support the proposed new wood factory for Cohasset. All carbon emissions would be offset by the burning of wood waste and carbon storage in the products.

That’s

According to an EAW (evaluation of environmental impact worksheet) that was completed last week

For

Huber Engineered Woods $400,000 million oriented Strand Board, or OSB plant

.

The updated EAW follows.

An environmental group, an Indigenous band and two Bemidji-area businesses spoke out last year about the inadequacy the original EAW.

Engineered wood plant.jpg

Gary Meader/ Duluth News Tribune

These concerns were raised by the Cohasset City Council in November. They are now overseeing the EAW.

The EAW was updated and a decision on acceptance was delayed until March.

If the city accepts these revisions, it would open a new 30-day period for public comment.

The 800,000-square foot facility will be built on 400 acres near the Minnesota Powers Boswell energy center. It will bring 158 jobs to the area. A project of this size would normally require a more detailed environmental impact statement. But, the Minnesota Legislature also allows for such a project.

Passed a law exempting the project from such a study

.

The following are key points of the updated EAW:

A net reduction in carbon

According to the new analysis of greenhouse gasses, the plant could reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by drying wood, burning wood, and storing carbon in wood products.

This is a vastly different figure from the one in the original EAW which stated that the plant would emit 446,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. This would make it the state’s 12th largest emitter, according the

2020 data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the updated EAW, on-site and off-site electricity production would equal 517,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annual emissions. The EPA and Minnesota Environmental Quality board both consider the burning biomass carbon neutral.

The EAW now subtracts the amount of carbon dioxide that would be released by burning fines or bark for the plants furnace, dryer system, and nearly 323,000 tons annually.

The revised EAW also reduces 233,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annual emissions due to the ability of plant’s wood products store carbon over their expected lifetime of 60 years.

The EAW stated that they could avoid the greenhouse gas emissions from cement and steel production. “Additionally, these wood product stores the CO2 taken up from the trees that are harvested and used for engineered lumber.”

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy had criticised the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy for not performing such an analysis or using “climate” as a part of the original EAW.

The EAW updated stated that denial of the plant would not aid the state in reaching its carbon reduction goals.

See Also

The EAW stated that rejection of the project would not reduce net carbon emissions, even if adjustments were made for biogenic emissions and product sequestration. “Huber Engineered Woods, a private company, has other options for the facility if Cohasset is not approved. We would pursue them.”

There is enough wood to make another mill.

After the release of the first EAW, West Fraser was critical. West Fraser operates an OSB plant near Bemidji in Solway.

Officials at the company feared that there wouldn’t enough aspen in the state for another OSB plant. They also urged an examination of the state’s wood resources, as the original EAW only stated that aspen was “plentiful” in the region.

The company also stated that an agency with “expertise” should conduct the EAW. This is not Cohasset who has already expressed “enthusiasm for the project.”

Professor Mike Kilgore, head of the Department of Forest Resources at University of Minnesota, reviewed the state’s forests for the updated EAW.

He pointed out the most recent inventory of state’s aspen, which was from 2018, and stated that 1.43 million cords of aspen per year are harvested, while the “annual sustainable harvest” is 2.36 millions cords.

Huber will use approximately 400,000 cords of timber per year, 75% being aspen. Kilgore stated that this would only account 30% of the aspen available for a sustainable harvest.

He concluded that “It is my belief that timber resources will (Huber Engineered Woods), (and other users) be made available in a sustainable and environmentally protective manner and that the incremental consumption fiber precipitated from the HEW project won’t have the potential to have significant environmental effects on Minnesotas forests resources.”

Concerns about the Leech Lake Band briefly addressed

Despite concerns raised in part by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (whose reservation is located just 1 mile west of the project site) and the fact that the project site is within the 1855 treaty territory, the original EAW did not address possible effects of its reservation or exercise of treaty rights.

The revised EAW focused largely on the sustainability of Minnesota’s forests. It stated that if the law is followed when harvesting wood from state and county lands, then the project “shouldn’t have significant impacts on reserved tribal rights.”

According to the EAW, “Impacts to treaty right, if any,” will usually be closely tied to the particular characteristics of specific tracts forest. “It is difficult to know which tracts or sequence of timber harvesting will supply the facility. There are several reasons to believe that the exercise and enjoyment of treaty rights will not be affected.”

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