The new owners of the former Seneca sawmill and biomass-fueled powerplant are working with Lane County air pollution regulators to alter air quality permits as the company considers upgrades to some of its local operations.
Sierra Pacific Industries, which bought the Seneca family of companies including its Eugene sawmill and powerplant last year, is currently in the process of renewing those facilities’ air quality permits while asking the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency to modify them to remove a federal limit on air pollutants to account for increased production.
The modifications would make the facilities subject to tighter pollution control technology standards, LRAPA said.
The public can offer comment and learn about plans for the facilities at a July 11 hearing and informational session.
The powerplant and the sawmill currently are considered one source of emissions when determining if they are a major source of federal hazardous air pollutants, or FHAP, because they are nearby and under common control.
The facilities’ current combined FHAP emissions do not exceed their permitted limits, but may if production at the sawmill increases. The facilities would have higher emission limits with the altered permits, but the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency would enforce pollution control technology standards stricter than required by current permits.
“Because the sawmill wants to potentially increase production and surpass this limit on the facility, they need that limit removed and replaced with pollution control technology standards,” said LRAPA spokesman Travis Knudsen.
More:New owners: ‘We don’t anticipate operational changes’ at Seneca’s Lane County sawmills
Sierra Pacific is in the early stages of assessing efficiency at former Seneca facilities in Eugene and Noti, according to spokeswoman Courtney Griesel. That could include construction of a facility to support machining, fabrication and truck and equipment maintenance at the Eugene site, a project Griesel said may increase efficiency and production.
Griesel said the company wants to complete that project, as well as installing a log merchandiser system at the Noti facility, within the next 24 months. But decisions may be affected by market conditions, hiring issues and permitting.
“What we’ve done is created some capacity for what could be increased production,” Griesel said. “Even though the decision to do so hasn’t been made, by going into the permit renewal now and by making the modifications now, it’s a good time for us to identify even the hypothetical and build in the awareness with our regulatory partners.”
Knudsen said because the permitting process can sometimes complicate plans, it’s often handled at early stages.
“Getting that permit can be a slow, complicated process,” Knudsen said. “It’s not unusual for facilities to get permission to do something before they actually kick the ball down the hill just so it’s an available option to them.”
The public comment period for the power plant permit modifications closes July 27. There is a public hearing on the permit modifications and an informational session on changes at the sawmill and powerplant planned for July 11.
LRAPA has received a permit application for similar changes at the sawmill. LRAPA will make the details of that permit public during a 40-day public comment period beginning July 12, which would include details about Sierra Pacific’s plans for potential increases of emission due to their plans and show what their new emission limits will be.
Contact reporter Adam Duvernay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @DuvernayOR.