The Green Scene

A film you can’t afford to miss

Inconvenient Truth poster

Clean Water for North Carolina and Generation Engage realize how inconvenient it is for penniless eco-activists to shell out precious cash to see Al Gore’s new film about the frightening facts of climate change.

That’s why the two organizations have partnered to offer a FREE screening of An Inconvenient Truth at 4 p.m. this Saturday, July 29, in A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium. The showing is unique because it will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Al Gore himself. No, the former vice prez won’t actually be here; instead he’ll put in a virtual appearance via video-conference technology. (Hey, we said they were environmentalists, not eco-primitivists, all right?)

While the event is free, attendees must R.S.V.P. via e-mail to adrian.dellinger@generationengage.org. For more information about Generation Engage, a Washington, D.C.-based civic-engagement initiative focused on young people, visit www.generationengage.org.

Green power, or just a load of manure?

A Philadelphia-based firm called Fibrowatt, LLC is scoping out Wilkes County as a possible location for an unusual sort of power plant. This $100 million facility would use a locally produced, highly renewable resource for fuel: chicken manure. According to company CEO Carl Strickler, the process keeps excess waste out of waterways, creates jobs and produces electricity without using coal or nuclear energy.

But the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League of Glendale Springs released a report on July 11 highlighting the air-quality impacts of incinerating poultry litter to fuel steam-generating boilers. Their comparison of emissions from a Fibrowatt plant now operating in Thetford, England, with that of a North Carolina-based Duke Energy coal-fired plant showed that the Fibrowatt facility emitted two-and-a-half times more pollution per megawatt of electricity than the Duke facility. Furthermore, BREDL charges that the plant would emit cancer-causing dioxin.

While not in Asheville’s backyard, the proposed facility — still a long way from being approved — could raise some eyebrows among local subscribers to NC GreenPower, a statewide renewable-energy program supported by consumer donations.

In addition to their report, BREDL sent a letter to NC GreenPower expressing concern that the program would accept this type of energy generation as a legitimate source of green power. “Contributors to your program have a right to know that the premium on their utility bill supports resources they consider safe and non-polluting,” the letter states. NC GreenPower currently has one producer that burns primarily wood waste but has a license to burn poultry litter, listed as a “biomass” power producer. And Fibrowatt is scheduled to meet with NC GreenPower in coming weeks.

According to Ewan Pritchard, resources manager at NC GreenPower, “Only technologies that are verified not to increase emissions [i.e. solar and wind power] are included in the $4 per 100 kilowatt-hours program, which is supported by individual consumers.” Pritchard says it remains “questionable” whether energy generated by Fibrowatt would be included in the nonprofit’s second program, which allows large-scale businesses to purchase 100 blocks or more of green power at $2.50 per 100 kilowatt-hours.

Keeping watch over Madison County’s rivers

The proposed Wolf Ridge sewage-treatment plant has organizers from the WNC Alliance and Madison County-based Laurel Valley Watch scrambling to get the word out on the project. A public hearing on the matter will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3, in Mars Hill College’s Moore Auditorium. Registration begins at 6 p.m.

According to the WNC Alliance Web site, the plant would deposit an estimated 300,000 gallons of chemically treated sewage from a gated community’s 900 homes and businesses into Puncheon Fork Creek in Laurel Valley.

Norma Ivey, the Madison County community organizer for the WNC Alliance, says concerns over the project range from potential health risks to the impact it would have on the fishing economy. “It’s a matter of when this plant fails — it’s not even a question of if it will fail,” she argues. “They always do at some point.”

Roy Davis, an environmental engineer at the Asheville branch of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, says he’s confident the plant would be safe. “I am sure that what is being proposed is a modern sewage-treatment plant, with proper disinfection and all the bells and whistles,” he says. According to Davis, recommendations based on comments made at the public hearing will be passed along to the director of the N.C. Division of Water Quality two to three months after the hearing.

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