By Bruce Ritchie
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to hearing requests for five more legal challenges against Florida's first biomass gas electric plant.
Some environmentalists tout the proposed Biomass Gas & Electric plant in Tallahassee as a green energy alternative. Gov. Charlie Crist has described the company's technology of producing gas from wood chips as a source of renewable energy.
But some neighborhood residents are concerned about noise, odor and pollution from the plant.
Biomass Gas & Electric of Norcross, Ga. proposes building the 42-megawatt plant on 21 acres of FSU land off Roberts Ave. The plant would produce enough power for about 24,000 homes.
DEP last week denied 10 petitions requesting hearings but granted a request filed by Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor. Five petitions were resubmitted this week and DEP granted the requests, said Amy Graham, a DEP spokeswoman.
Community activist Bob Fulford, whose request was approved, said Saturday he was pleased.
"I think that's great," he said. "That was my intention -- to have a hearing."
Meanwhile, BG&E this week filed its own request for a hearing, saying that portions of the proposed permit required clarification.
"This is not a peitition for a new hearing," said James VanLandingham, a spokesman for the company. "This is a filing that preserves the company's abilty to clarify issues with the DEP at the hearing which is alredy pending."
Tallahassee Attorney David Ludder sent a letter to DEP warning that he would file a claim against the state for racial discrimination under the federal Civil Rights Act if a permit is issued. He said he represents the NAACP and four area residents.
Department spokeswoman Amy Graham responded by saying that the permit has not been issued.
"The permit is still going through the formal administrative process," she said.
BG&E will host an open house on Monday at Tallahassee Community College to provide information on the plant. The event will be held in the student ballroom from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Tallahassee City Commission is scheduled on Wednesday to consider a development agreement with FSU that includes restrictions on lighting and noise from the plant.