Tale of two biomass operations at one placeDifferences between the Laurentian Energy Authority’s head, Terry Leoni, and the head of the northern St. Louis County Association of Contract Loggers and Truckers, Scott Dane, can make it seem like two different operations are operating at the same place — in Virginia’s case at part of the Virginia Public Utilities.
By: Charles Ramsay, Mesabi Daily News, Superior Telegram
VIRGINIA — Half the loads truckers are bringing in, of biomass or wood chips, to the Laurentian Energy Authority are from Wisconsin, a loggers group says.
No, only 16 percent, a biomass organization responds.
Loggers from the ACLT group won’t sign long-term contracts to provide certain minimum amounts of biomass. They’re willing to provide more biomass, and on weekends also.
Differences between the LEA’s head, Terry Leoni, and the head of the northern St. Louis County Association of Contract Loggers and Truckers, Scott Dane, can make it seem like two different operations are operating at the same place — in Virginia’s case at part of the Virginia Public Utilities.
The LEA was created in 2005 when the Hibbing and Virginia public utilities converted their coal-burning city heat and power plants to burn biomass.
Among items of contention is legislation passed this year. LEA requested a change in language with the power-supply agreement LEA has with supplier Xcel Energy that gave them authority to recover $1.4 million in additional costs, including transportation and procurement, the ACLT’s Dane said.
The legislation was specifically for the LEA and started July 1, he added.
ACLT proposes “that LEA adhere to their original proposal that the supply would be procured within 75 miles,” Dane said.
A number of Minnesota loggers have gone out and bought logging and chipping equipment as a result. But a half-dozen or so state loggers have had their contracts terminated by an email sent by the LEA. Dane contends that Minnesota loggers could increase their deliveries of wood chips, and are willing to deliver on weekends, if deliveries from Wisconsin were reduced.
Now, T&T Logging of Danbury, Wis., hauls eight loads of biomass daily 125 miles one way to the Virginia operation, which processes about 15-17 truckloads daily.
LEA should comply with the original intent of the project and utilize Minnesota loggers and Minnesota biomass, Dane said.
“We’ve had enough of this,” he said. The 150-member ACLT has brought their concerns to local, county and state officials, but has “received no action,” he said.
For Leoni, the ACLT has made a lot of statements. Nine years ago, the group was saying the LEA would not succeed. Seven years ago, the group told the LEA they could supply all the wood biomass needed. Four years ago, loggers were to get their own wood chippers. But it hasn’t been enough, he said.
With Xcel, “the contract is a power purchasing agreement,” Leoni said. With a set amount to be supplied, “the only way I know how to do that is to make a commitment.” ACLT did not want to sign long-term commitments, with a three-year minimum, he added.
LEA is expected to use 240,000 tons of biomass annually. A total of 16 percent is supplied by T&T Trucking daily to Virginia. A total of 42 to 48 truckloads of biomass come from Minnesota, he said.
Some area loggers are not willing to commit to a long-term contract, usually of about 15,000 tons annually, and some are not willing to bring material in as wood chips, but as round wood, Leoni noted.
LEA was willing to get a common chipper for loggers to use, and made overtures to loggers, but some were unwilling to commit, he said.
By about 2011, LEA began looking outside of the state for material. “We weren’t getting what we needed” for supply, he said.
The situation is complex, and “this has been going on for a long time,” Leoni said. He added that the ACLT “never changed their tune.”
The current procurement is under a contract with a reliable supplier, he said. It’s a most cost effective way and “can help us meet our legislative mandate,” Leoni added. “It’s a contractual issue.” And he added, of ACLT, “It’s sour grapes.”