On February 27, the Washington State Supreme Court affirmed the principle of “carbon neutrality” in the generation of power through combustion of woody biomass in a decision dismissing the claim of a group known as PT Air Watchers, which had challenged a permit approving construction of a new cogeneration project at Port Townsend Paper Corporation’s existing kraft pulp and paper mill.
The plaintiff had argued that the Port Townsend project required an environmental impact statement specifically on the grounds of its releasing “greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, [which] can have a significant impact on the human and built environment.” The responding state agency argued:
- The biomass released in combustion would have been released anyway, through natural decay, forest fire, or slash burning;
- The substitution of biomass for fossil fuel depressed any net gain in atmospheric carbon; and
- Statutory definitions supported the concept of carbon cycling.
The Court accepted each of these points and furthermore pointed out that the State of Washington was not required to “consider every conceivable environmental impact” when administering regulations.