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Local Opposition Affects Approved Biofuel Plant

maiorino, al, public strategy groupIn 2014, the United States Departments of the Navy, Energy and Agriculture awarded a $70 million grant to Red Rock Biofuels for the design, construction, commissioning and performance testing of a new biofuel refinery.  The biorefinery is planned for Lakeview, Oregon, close to the Fremont Nation Forest and the intersecting state lines of Oregon, Nevada, and California. This new renewable project aims to expand military fuel sources, improve reliability of the nation’s fuel supply and prevent supply disruption to reinforce the nation’s energy security.  Despite these benefits that bring additional employment and revenue benefits for the local community of Lakeview, NIMBY, or “not in my backyard,” opponents to biofuel refineries across the United States run fierce opposition campaigns that threaten project completion.  These campaigns can often result in project delays or even cancellation all together, and despite a properly zoned site.

Two Lake County Commissioners, Brad Winters and Ken Kestner, support the biofuel project and believe that when completed, the project will improve Lakeview’s air quality by creating healthier forests and preventing forest fires. Additionally, Oregon Business wrote an economic report stating that the biofuel plant would create up to “25 direct and 79 to 109 indirect and induced jobs,” resulting in an increase in labor income. However, Commissioner Winters acknowledged the myths promoted by the opposition that take hold by noting that those opposed to the creation of the biorefinery are not basing their concerns and objections on factual information.  Winters emphasized the importance of community members’ attendance at review workshops and hearings in order to become more informed as state and federal agencies evaluate the proposal as a prerequisite for completion.

Despite a successful rezone of the proposed site by the Lake County Planning Board, opponents remain focused on keeping the proposal out of their community. They fear that transporting these biofuels through the Lake County railroad from Lakeview to Alturas could possibly result in derailments with damaging effects on the community. The opposition is highly organized, holding meetings to strategize and planning petition drives to re-open the process for public comment before the County Commissioners. As is the case with some projects, the opposition group is also instigating a recall drive against Lake County Commissioners and Lakeview Town Council members, showing that all land use truly is political in nature.

Meanwhile, supporters are hoping that this project will receive the necessary approvals according to current plans so construction can begin in summer or fall of 2015 for operations to commence by 2016.  Just as the opponents have utilized grassroots tactics to add to their numbers, so too much supporters. To save time and money, companies must engage communities and stakeholders throughout the entire permitting process to ensure that community members are informed and engaged every step. By identifying and mobilizing members of what is often the silent majority, public support can be built throughout Lake County for a quick and successful project approval.

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4 thoughts on “Local Opposition Affects Approved Biofuel Plant

  1. If you want know the truth about how liquid biofuels are critically dependent upon fossil fuels for their production and are thus never going to be competitive with fossil fuels no matter how high their price goes, read this http://wici.ca/new/resources/occasional-papers/#no.4 . Also read the news stories and stock price histories of KiOR, Range Fuels, Cello, KL Energy, SGI, Codexis, Amyris, Gevo, Solazyme, Syntroleum, Dynamic Fuels, Mascoma, Terrebon, Choren, Cellana, Verasun, Verenium, Virdia, ZeaChem, etc.

  2. Having written the story, you reference my efforts. You have a few things incorrect:

    * The Zoning Permit did not go in front of the Planning Commission.
    * I do not live in the Town of Lakeview and cannot, therefore, be a NIMBY.
    * Rail safety issues, and those associated with emergency response efforts in other states and municipalities, is by definition not NIMBY.
    * The incredible amount of industry subsidies, at the expense of local citizens and their taxbases to fund emergency services and future liability claims associated with this product is not addressed by your piece. Red Rock would not exist were it not for public monies (i.e. corporate welfare).

    I find your article stunning, especially from the perspective of it being so brazen regarding industry efforts – regardless of whether or not the product produced is “renewable”.

  3. Had you invested even a modicum of research you might have come away with a far more accurate understanding of the situation in Lakeview as it relates to the proposed RR biofuels plant. As it is, it seems you’re just making sh!t up for the sake of printing.
    I was the individual that called the very impromptu meeting of concerned Lakeview residents. Our intent had little to do with the Red Rock plant aside from how they had manipulated the Town Council into nefariously passing an Ordinance (see Lakeview Ordinance 851) that specifically targets low income residents (while simultaneously giving a pass to existing corporate polluters in the area) with the intent of “placing the burden of meeting the Federal Clean Air requirements on the citizens rather than on businesses”. (Quote is from Lakeview Town Manager, Ray Simms.)

    And while my motivation for showing up at these meetings differ from Mr. Zinda’s (see previous comment) and even though Chris’ and my political points-of-view could not possibly be further apart, we ARE mutually able to see clearly the questionable manner in which this project has been thrust on the community with absolutely NO PUBLIC INPUT WHATSOEVER – until we started making noise.
    Then and only then did Red Rock scramble to hold a public informational meeting about their big plans for our community.
    It shouldn’t take a rocket-fuel scientist to figure out that if you intentionally hide your plans and collude with local officials to keep the public uninformed, you are very likely going to encounter some degree of opposition. Even if you then hold public meetings (as an afterthought), the damage has already been done. You have already forfeited the trust of the very community you plan to invade.
    The Red Rock meeting was very informative and quite honestly, if we had not been forced to actively search for this supposedly “public information” prior to when they finally got around to providing it, well they could have saved themselves a lot of community relations ‘problems’.
    However, they chose otherwise…

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