Palmer, PR, Schneider Electric and taxes

Palmer said Monday that the plant will be a step forward in the redevelopment of downtown Vancouver,” Palmer said. “In fact, we are planning to utilize an innovative federal tax credit only available to projects that will revitalize areas that are categorized as economically distressed such as this one.”

We, as a city and a county, can come up with better revitalization plans than giving federal tax credits to multinational energy companies who externalize their pollutants onto the economically distressed people they say that they are going to help. Contradictory, isn’t it? The idea that an energy company gets our tax money to increase area pollution and call it “help” is one we can all do without.

Another idea that we can do without is public relations of the sort that Mr. Palmer seems to relish: empty informational sheets and pictures. We want the specs. on that plant, we want to talk about how they speculate on selling the power generated, we want a whole lot of other concerns addressed, and we want the ability to have dialogue with all parties instead of with public relations. All these things together will, quite likely, allow us to poke even more holes in the argument that this will all work so neatly.

Commissioner Mielke dismissed concerns on Tuesday about emissions with a very simplistic “they have scrubbers” comment. Is this a personal guarantee from the Commissioners that SE will use the best available control technologies regardless of cost? Or is it that we are expected to trust that  “smart people will take care of the problems that we don’t understand?” If it is the latter, then we should feel insulted. If it is the former, then it means that Commissioner Mielke has the specs for the plant that no one else has and also has the ability to force SE into using the most expensive technologies available and then some. And regardless of which it is, this biomass plant is an additional burden on existing air quality and of minimal value to the County.

In as much as federal and state bodies really are pushing biomass, there is some consideration for location. We will soon be in dialogue with the environmental justice arm of the EPA to address this particular boondoggle, and we have already engaged numerous groups whose focus is the health of the people in both city and county.

As to revitalization, the City Council is already working on several projects (which I am not going to belabor here) that don’t go so well with a plant whose emissions are currently only described as “not worse than Frito-Lay”. Ironically, maybe SE should look to invest that tax credit in the hospital / clinic facilities on Main St. so that everyone who “benefits” from their emissions can get treatment more efficiently when they cannot breathe or have existing illnesses compounded. At least we would get some benefit from those taxes.