TRUCKEE, Calif. - The proposed two-megawatt Cabin Creek Biomass Energy Facility will "likely" benefit community health in Lake Tahoe, according to findings from a Health Impact Assessment released Monday.
Air quality improvement, a reduced risk of wildfires and diversification of energy sources are some of the findings in the assessment, which evaluated both positive and negative health impacts should the biomass facility be constructed and operational.
The Sequoia Foundation, the public health research nonprofit that conducted the assessment, studied seven points of interest - air quality, wildfires, traffic, water quality, noise, greenhouse gas emissions, economic and energy security - based on public input at three community meetings.
"The HIA process allowed us to learn about local community concerns, so we could address them in a systematic way," said Bindi Gandhi, Health Impact Assessment program manager of Sequoia Foundation, in a press release. "Issues such as economic and energy security, water quality, and traffic would likely have not been assessed in this HIA if community members had not expressed these as concerns at community meetings."
Key recommendations by the Sequoia Foundation in the assessment are:
• Placer County should develop a communications plan between residents and facility operators to address air quality and noise concerns.
• The Placer County Air Pollution Control District should increase the number of surprise on-site inspections.
• The county should prioritize the hiring of local contractors for both facility construction and operation.
"This health impact assessment by the Sequoia Foundation is to be applauded for its independent, third-party analysis," said Jennifer Montgomery, Placer County Supervisor for District 5. "... The report's findings will not only inform those local communities, but other communities across the country that are considering similar alternative energy technologies."
The assessment can be viewed here: www.placer.ca.gov/Departments/CommunityDevelopment/Planning/Biomass.aspx
According to Placer County, the facility proposed to be built at the Eastern Regional Landfill on Cabin Creek Road between Squaw Valley and Truckee would utilize gasification technology to convert woody biomass gathered from nearby forestland within a 30-mile radius, which is projected to power the facility for its lifespan of 40 years.
The project aims to improve regional air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to open pile burning of biomass waste and support of healthy forest management practices designed to reduce catastrophic wildfire risks, according to its environmental impact report.