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Tuolumne County Concerned About Losing Biomass Plant

Sonora, CA — The Supervisors in Tuolumne County are asking for help from Governor Jerry Brown to prevent the closure of a biomass plant in Chinese Camp.

At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting it was noted that the future of the Chinese Camp based biomass cogeneration run by Pacific Ultra Power is dire due to the current trend of non-renewal of power contracts by PG&E. Pacific Ultra Power’s 30-year agreement with PG&E expires in January of next year, and the county fears the plant could close even sooner because of declining subsidies. Pacific Ultra Power is one of an estimated seven biomass plants that could close over the next several months because of expiring power contracts. There has been no formal action taken by the state’s Public Utilities Commission to recommend renewal of the contracts. The county’s letter urges the Governor to intervene and provide “positive momentum” in that direction.

The letter adds, “Tuolumne County currently enjoys the services of Pacific Ultra Power which uses both fuels from the valley orchards and products from this county. The alternative to non-renewal is likely burning the material on-site and releasing particulate matter into the atmosphere which contributes to air pollution.”

It adds that “time is of the essence.”

The plant locally utilizes wood fuel, often from dead tree removal or pre-commercial thinning, to produce power that is purchased by PG&E.

County meeting documents note that the seven statewide facilities that could potentially close “utilize about 2.5 million tons per year of forestry, sawmill, ag, and urban biomass feedstocks.”