Proposed Domtar/WE Energies biomass plant in Rothschild WI

May 4, 2010 at 2:22 am (environmental, Uncategorized)


 I have lived my life for the most part exactly the way I’ve wanted to and with few “true” mistakes.  But there are a couple of things my life I wish I would have done differently.  One of those things was what I was doing with myself during the time the Arrowhead-Weston line and Weston 4 were being built.  I was being young and dumb, and I didn’t join the fight against it until the thing was halfway built, two years after I could’ve have really done something.  In fact if you go back into the early months of my blog, you will see and account of it from the time.  If I could do it over, I would have come out guns blazing for my principles, when I could have actually made a difference, instead of wasting my time being a 20-something who didn’t believe she could make a difference.  Few ever get a chance to redo past mistakes, but it seems I have been granted a rare opportunity, for history is repeating itself, but this time it comes cloaked in a veil of green washing and false-promises.  I am referring to the proposed Rothschild Biomass plant.

Now do not get me wrong.  I am about the biggest tree hugger around these parts.  I have spent many years sticking it out being the lone environmentalist in a pro-logging kind of town, and enduring police and corporate harrassment as a result.  I’ve volunteered for Greenpeace, I organized with both Step It Up 2007, and, I have written elected officials, from local representatives all the way to the president on issues ranging from undersea navy sonar tests to logging the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest. I have written letters to the editor and articles for both EarthFirst! Magazine and Midwest Solar.  I have even lived in an RV and out in the woods, in a very Walden-esque experience, in addition to the fact that if I could have gotten the sponsorship for the trip, I would be in the Gulf Coast right now volunteering with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to clean up the mess from the DeepWater Horizon oil spill.  I am as green as green gets.

So when I say the Rothschild Biomass plant is a scam, you can be sure I am not some right-wing plant.  Im not, and you heard me right, the Rothschild biomass plant is a scam.

In it’s idealised form, biomass is a good thing.  Burning waste wood to create steam to in turn power a generator is a good thing.  That is when you are using only wood, and it is small scale.  There is nothing small about a 25 story smoke stack and a 10 story tall power plant, in the middle of a residential neighborhood and a mile away from a school, yet that is exactly what WE Energies has proposed.  There is nothing small about 75 truckloads of waste wood a day, that in all likelihood will contain waste chemical sludge as well, to power this thing.  18,000 semis a year, that will be a constant stream of diesel emissions in addition to the emissions from the biomass plant.

On the subject of emissions, WE Energies has stated a 30% reductions in overall emissions from the facility, but this is operating at 30% capacity, the operating load that would only provide steam for Domtar.  What they haven’t told you is that in the State Permit application they have clearly stated this plant can not operate at anything less than 40% capacity because anything below is unstable for this type of boiler.  At peak load, (I think Weston 4 operates at about 90-92% most of the time) this plant will emit 2 to 3 times what is currently being emitted at the site right now.  On top of it, where will the other electricity be sent?  Not to Wausau or Rothschild, but back down the grid to the south of the state, just like Weston 4 feeds Superior.  And what happens if this electricity isn’t used?  They bill their customers a higher rate to recoup their losses.  This is exploitation at its finest.

 All things considered, the concerns of air quality are a valid one.  Domtar is bad enough with it’s SO2, but this on top of it will be a serious health concern.  And do not expect the government to regulate and do it’s job.  Just like the private investor owned Wisconsin Public Service and American Transmission Company behind Weston 4 and the Arrowhead Weston line, WE Energies is a member of Forward Wisconsin, a state business marketing group that at least until 2007, was chaired by Governor Jim Doyle.  This 501(c)(3) is currently run by an individual from Alliant Energy and it’s member list of every single power company in the state makes me wonder how non-profit this organization really is and who’s running who in this state founded group.  

 We already have too many exploitative corporations here, Domtar included, yet groups like this work to bring more, and whereas it may be business as usual for governments, it doesn’t make it right.  It is a sad commentary on our society where the government that is supposed to have the average person’s needs in mind, instead spends it time courting predatory companies to grow the tax base, companies whose business and economic models are based off of constant and unsustainable growth.  Never mind that when all the resources are used up and the land is unlivable, there will be no revenue, nevermind that in medical terms that something that continuously grows is called a cancer.  This shortsighted and stupid approach is still considered sound fiscal policy, even when all of it is just glorified greed.  It’s true for the feds, its true for the state just as it seems in this case true all the way down to the municipal level.

The idea of jobs created is a half truth as well.  400 temporary jobs may be generated in construction, but they are exactly that, temporary, not to mention the construction will be undertaken by Boldt based out of Appleton, not a local company with local workers.  The 30 permanent fulltime jobs it is expected to generate, will be negated by the 30 jobs lost at Domtar when their boilers are shut down.  Property tax revenue is a joke.  The plant will bring in more revenue yes, but the surrounding property values will plummet, and in the long run Rothschild will lose more money than it makes.

We Energies is also building this plant because of a bill passed by the state legislature requiring power companies to have 10% of their utilities fueled by renewable sources.  But so much for the spirit of the law.  Way to see the forest through the trees, WE energies (pun intended).  Build something else, further adding greenhouse gases, as opposed to converting what you already have.  But, instead of fist shaking, why dont I offer a solution.  I have a better idea than building something else, kill two birds with one stone.  Both Domtar and Weston 4 are on the same rail line.  Why don’t WPS and WE Energies get together to convert Weston 4 to biomass?  Not that I am ever going to approve of Weston 4 and what it has done to the countryside, but it would be a win win situation for both companies, and Rothschild residents.  WE enegies fills its renewable energy quota, WPS gets a potential boost to help the underused Weston 4 and no one has to live next to a dirty smelly power plant, as weston four is surrounded by highway, industry and a mall.   There biomass would be an improvement, and the fuel could come right down the rail, pulled by a DC electric motor that gets way better mileage than a semi.  I can only hope.

As a veteran in conservation circles the way this project is being proposed and being marketed right now is angering and offensive to me.  It is bad enough when something like this is built, but it is outrageous and it gives people like me a bad name when something like this is passed off as environmentally friendly.  Its just like the green tier certification the DNR gave American Transmission Co after they tore a swath in the northwoods half the length of the state.  WE Energies is trying to make a buck plain and simple.  They see this area and they see dollar signs, but they care nothing about what makes this land so beautiful, they care nothing about the families that have lived here, just as WPS and ATC didn’t care when they forced Douglass county by eminent domain to allow the Arrowhead-Weston line to be built. 

When it comes down to it though, the corporate centralized system is the problem, and I do not care if this biomass plant would make the Domtar plant less likely to shut down in a declining paper market or not.  The paper industry today is a blight on this land, because it is no longer profiting the people that live here.  It profits investors and CEO’s whose workers are merely slaves, whom rich fat cats take out dead peasant life insurance plans on so they can profit from their deaths, after they’ve broken them through a lifetime of forced servitude.  I say forced because if you want to live a halfway decent and stable life you have to take one of these jobs.  If these companies and plants were cooperatives it would be a whole different story but their not.  Gone is the pioneer lumberjack, replaced by plutocracy.  Break the chains, don’t drink the corporate and PR firm kool-aid, there is nothing environmentally friendly about this project.

Rothschild residents and , you have my support, give ’em hell!



  1. dave said,

    And your living next to a paper mill why? What would posses you to live near a paper mill if you are so worried about your health and the enviroment and your so concerned about the children in the playground across the street. Why were you not worried about their health lets say 5 years ago?

    • etheria888 said,

      I do not live next to the paper mill, for precisely that reason, but way to pull assumptions out of your arse. I have worked on trying to lower emissions from both Domtar and Weston 4 and reduce logging and the whole bit, for over three years officially now, and over ten years unofficially. I’ve been fighting since long before anyone cared or listened, but it didn’t stop me. You can see my work in the early days of my blog, but once again way to pull assumptions out of you know where.

      • Carol said,

        I make it a point to hear both sides of a debate, and althought I do not agree with your viewpoint I found you to be well written and sincere until …
        “The paper industry today is a blight on this land, because it is no longer profiting the people that live here. It profits investors and CEO’s whose workers are merely slaves, whom rich fat cats take out dead peasant life insurance plans on so they can profit from their deaths, after they’ve broken them through a lifetime of forced servitude. I say forced because if you want to live a halfway decent and stable life you have to take one of these jobs. If these companies and plants were cooperatives it would be a whole different story but their not. ” to compare the paper industry to slavery/servitude is the most idiotic and irresponsible thing you could have said. Not to mention totally FALSE.

      • etheria888 said,

        As to the paper mill being a form of slavery I stand my ground. These people are forced to work at jobs like this to earn a decent wage, and in the process they are exposed to chemicals beyond what is safe (OSHA tests are mere formality, I know someone who personally threw their OSHA senser in a vat of chemicals and it came back at acceptable levels) You want a decent paying job with no college degree you have to work 40 hours a week if not more, leaving your family duties to take second, so God knows whose raising your children these days where more often than not a family needs two incomes to survive, you are polluting the surrounding environment with air particulates that lead to cancer and asthma, so both you and your children are getting sick, and all the while most corporations take out life insurance policies on their workers so they can profit from their early death, and inevitable thing with the amount of pollution large paper industries emit, affecting both their workers and the surrounding homes, all the while these same corporations and their CEO’s are getting shamefully wealthy. How is that not forced servitude and slavery?

  2. Gary said,

    I doubt if We Energies really wants to build this plant — at least not for economic reasons. They don’t need the power, but they do need to meet the state’s requirement for a certain amount of renewable energy, which was legislated in Madison. Would be better to keep government out of the power business and let market forces rule. If that were the case, this plant likely would not be built. If I were you, I’d direct more of your venom toward Madison and less toward the companies who are being forced to comply with their requirements. As for the pollution issue, I think the plant would actually reduce emissions, which would be good for the area. I don’t know about the whole slave thing. That seems to go overboard. I don’t think the employees are forced to work there, and I’m pretty sure they are paid for their time.

    Life is good.

    • etheria888 said,

      My venom is being directed where it needs to be. And I say what I need to. Apathy is the enemy here folks.

      As to WE, I do not think they need to build this plant, in all likelihood it is because of a deal worked out with Sierra Club to build a biomass facility after WE was allowed to build a coal fired plant in Oak Creek.

      I feel if the size and placement of this project could be scaled down and altered, it could be a very good thing, but only if it is replacing something. Weston Power complex boasts the 3rd largest coal facility, and Weston 1 and 2 are listed as the 8th dirtiest in the nation. I am all on board with this replacing one of the Weston Generators, a possibility if WPS feels enough pressure to do so.

      Should be an interesting week for it, because open public comment to the Public Service Commission ends June 15. You got something say go on their website and follow the link, whatever way you feel about it.

      My group currently works to convert the Wausau Area to Renewables, I’m not against biomass as a concept, it is the execution of this proposed project at Domtar. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

  3. Alarm System said,

    i like it jobs because it is a high paying job and you work in an air conditioned office .”~

    • etheria888 said,

      Au contraire, I work on an organic farm for 8/hr. Between cutting and rubbing my hands raw from weeding, and hefting 40 lbs bags of chicken feed to standing out in fields for up to 8 hours, up to my ankles in mud or out in the sweltering midday sun in the summer time, my job is far from comfortable. I do it because I am contributing to society by growing people wholesome healing food, even though I could earn a lot more if that was what I was worried about. But it is not, I worry about where we are headed as a nation when everything we doin our careers is about money, and by that single minded pursuit we allow the monster to perpetuate itself, the same corporate monster that is the reason we have been sold out and sold short of jobs to overseas. I understand that we need jobs, but I think we are all going to find out the hard way that this is not the kind of work we want. My point is perhaps we should start working for what we want as opposed to what we have to. If this is what you want than so be it, but tell me what is the point of putting the food on the table when the air you breathe is poison?

  4. Leah Perez said,

    ‘*; I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives up to date information -~,

  5. Thermoplastic Elastomers said,

    :~” that seems to be a great topic, i really love it ,:”

  6. Jesse Sewell said,

    Biomass is obviously beneficial, as it provides local jobs and utilizes fuel that is readily available, locally harvested waste wood. Imported coal is dug from the earth in processes that are massively harmful to the environment. Not to mention the Billions of dollars leaving the local economy and going to conglomerates, even nations that hate us (heating oil). At least we can admit that if billions are to be spent, perhaps they should go to local companies first to purchase locally derived fuels. Second, the major obstacle to biomass is the pollution caused by trucking. This is a pathetic excuse. Is oil magically extracted from the earth without creating pollution? Is coal simply picked off the ground or are mountains not blown off entirely to extract coal? So if the pollution happens somewhere else than we are fine with it? The idea that a few thousand trucks a year is a net increase in pollution compared to the extraction of coal is completely a red herring. I understand that some oppose Biomass simply because they imagine all the trees of the world will be cut down for fuel. This will never happen. If anything Biomass will save trees by making them more valuable, increasing demand. This encourages the planting of trees, not discourages. You mention the 30 jobs that the project will create as temporary, yet the thousands of trucks ‘bringing pollution’ are apparently driven by robots, as are I suppose the forest and logging machines that will harvest and process the waste wood. These are meaningful jobs, not hypothetical, not temporary. If you care so much about people and their livelihoods (Paper Co., slaves) then acknowledge your opposition to this will cost people jobs. If your arguments were so sound and well reasoned, then you would offer the full story.

  7. Gary said,

    Anyone who dislikes this project should contact legislators to get the renewable energy requirements removed from Wisconsin’s utilities. This project would not have been proposed if utilities weren’t required to have a certain percentage of their energy produced by renewables. The requirement is the same one that is responsible for all the wind turbines popping up like daisies around the state. Those projects would be OK if the power were even needed, but it isn’t. There’s plenty of power in the state. These projects should only be considered at a time when more power is needed — and most of these projects are not even cost effective. They are expensive “feel good” projects that should at least be postponed. Not really opposed to Domtar project, just renewables in general. There may be other compelling reasons for the Domtar project beyond the energy it could generate — like jobs, cleaner air, etc.

  8. T Johnson said,

    How long do you think Domtar would last in the paper market using the boilers they have now, which is costing the company more to operate and keeping their paper prices at a level that would result in the plant shutting down. When paper can be imported from China cheaper then it can be made here, something needs to be done. The emissions coming out of the trucks built since 2004 is reduced, reduced again in 2007, again in 2010, again in 2014. So without the biomass plant in a few years when the Domtar plant would be shut down what will all the ‘SLAVES’ do for income. I guess you could employ them, pulling weeds. What will you do when Weston 5 is built, oh I let that one slip out. Did you know about those plans? You said Weston 1 & 2 are the worst for emissions. You did not list 3 & 4 is that because of regulations on new plant emissions? I would agree that Weston 1 & 2 should be updated. You are another one of those Not In My Back Yard people. The paper mill has been in Rothschild for around 100 years, plenty of time for anybody to build, buy or rent a house somewhere else. If you are so worried about everyones health, start crying about the bridges, roads and sewer lines in the U.S. that will cost trillions to repair or replace.

    • etheria888 said,

      There was a time when I actually gave a crap people like you, but I am at the point where if you want to poison your own dumb ass, well then knock yourself out. You’ll cry about jobs, all the way poisoning yourself and your children, both born and unborn. People like you are just stupid, any animal knows not to soil it’s own nest, yet apparently you dont have the common sense to know even that. And for the record, if you looked at the rest of my blog you would know that I knew about a Weston 5, 4 years ago, and if you looked at the comment roll, you would know I do not live in Rothschild. Not only are you arrogant, but you are unobservant as well. I have spent so much time caring for and trying to help people like you, that apparently dont have the sense God gave you, and well you cant save those who wont even save themselves, who go about being a cruel for the sake of rubbing it in someones face. Go ahead be a dick, talk about how you will further tear up the country side till nothing is left. Eventually you are just going to kill yourself, and then you are no longer a concern to me. Pride goeth before a fall. The more bile you spread, the more you curse yourself.

      • T Johnson said,

        I just found this site so I don’t know what you have cried about in the past, and I more then likely won’t be back. Everybody has a right to say what they want and I don’t need to read someone crying about this anymore. This was going to happen somewhere and the Rothschild site must have been one of the best sites for the project. I would like to see clean energy myself, but until that happens this is what is going to be built. The govenor signed the bill making these companies look for new ways to make energy. matbe you should have started a recall on him, that is the new thing when it is not going your way! I owned a house on right next to Domtar and I would still be there if my job didn’t move me. You and your readers are burning coal to power your computers. You your part and turn it off!

  9. etheria888 said,

    Man you have no idea who I am do you? I’ve spent the last ten years trying to make good on everything I say, and I have done far more than most to put my money where my mouth is. I would not have on grid electricity if it were not mandatory to have it. The law is I have to have electric service, whether I want it or not. Otherwise I would quite happily power my computer by solar. I have tried to change the laws, just as I tried to move off grid, but a person has to have money to do so, and I am in short supply of that. You could call me a hypocrite but only if you didnt know me, because I drive my partner batty shutting off all the lights etc. I hate the fact i still use on grid electricity, and a good portion of my head space goes to solving the problem on my end. I rarely am on the computer anymore, just as I do not have many of the modern conveniences that most others have. No, microwave, no cell phone, I live in the same house as a TV, but it is not mine and I never turn it on.

    You seem to love to be able to paint me as just some whiney/crying environmentalist, but again you dont know me. Trust me, you’ve never met anyone like me, so throw out your generalizations at the door. If your just angry and want someone to vent on well then fine, vent on me, I can take it, I am that strong, contrary to what you seem to believe about me. But while your venting on me, could you please ask yourself why you are so angry at a stranger in the first place? Could it be that you are not happy? Could it be that as much as you staunchly defend whatever way of life it is that you have, that way of life only makes you more miserable?

    Do yourself a favor, and do me a favor before you come on my blog to be rude to someone you dont even know. Shut off the breaker box in your basement. Sit in your house without any power for a few hours. I guarantee you’ll feel more relaxed. People spend so much time slaving away for a way of life that does not make them happy in the end, yet they will defend it to the last because it is all that they know, and they fear instability and the unknown more than anything. While your sitting in your house with the electrical service shut off know that the reason why you feel more relaxed is that any electrical device emits EMF fields, a form of radiation that makes your serum trigylcerides go through the roof. In lay mans terms it means it causes your body to release stress hormones. Electricity literally makes you stressed. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Those same fields disrupt pineal gland functioning, the gland that rules sleep cycles, leading to a marked rise in insommnia, and all the myriad psychiatric disorders that result from lack of sleep. You want to know why everyone is so stressed out and angry, look no farther than your wall outlet or cell phone.

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