Loophole foreshadowing: Florida PSC approves Gainesville biomass plant

I know nothing about this plant, but in the context of my two most recent blogs on the biomass loophole and its relationship with the definition of renewable biomass, I note with alarm two parts of this helpful blog on the approval of a biopower plant in FL.

First there's this:

But opponent Paula Stahmer told The Florida Tribune the vote would hurt GRU customers and encourage landowners to replace natural forests with rows of pine trees to provide fuel for the plant.

That type of conversion of a natural forest to a plantation is exactly part of what the existing definition of renewable biomass would prevent and why Congress shouldn't gut it.

Then there's this:

Gainesville residents Dian Deevey and Paula Stahmer asked the PSC this week to delay action because they said a new federal greenhouse gas emissions rule would apply to the plant, raising the cost of electricity. But the commission voted to reject the request after PSC's legal staff said federal officials assured them that the plant wouldn't be subject to the new rule if it receives its federal air permit by Jan. 2, 2011.

Rushing ahead to build something just so you can avoid regulations isn't the sign of a clear conscience. Obviously the loophole would actually encourage projects like this even if the GHG balance is bad. But Florida regulators should do the carbon accounting themselves and not hang their hat on the promise of bad federal policy.