Ceres Trials Energy Crops at Georgia Biofuel Facility

9 09 2008

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ — Energy crop company Ceres,
Inc. announced today that it will trial improved switchgrass cultivars and
high-biomass sorghum hybrids with Range Fuels, Inc. as part of a cooperative
field trialing program at the site of Range Fuels’ commercial-scale cellulosic
ethanol plant, now under construction near Soperton, Georgia, about 150 miles
southeast of Atlanta.

While wood residues will be the primary feedstock for this first-of-a-kind
biorefinery, Ceres said that Range Fuels is also interested in better
understanding the economic, environmental and logistical attributes of
non-food, low-carbon grass species in the production of cellulosic biofuels.
These grass species have a number of advantages: they have relatively rapid
breeding cycles, they are highly efficient at storing sunlight in the form of
carbohydrates, and they are widely adapted. Last spring, Ceres provided seed
of new, high-yielding varieties that was planted in demonstration plots on
Range Fuels’ Soperton Plant site. The crops will be assessed for several years.

“The goal is to determine the best crop management, storage and handling
practices for Georgia, and just as important, the performance of herbaceous
biomass in Range Fuels’ conversion process,” said Anna Rath, Ceres vice
president of commercial development. She noted that grass species, including
both annuals and perennials, can provide a flexible and reliable supply of raw
materials for fuel and power. “This is an important step in demonstrating that
energy crops can be successfully and sustainably grown in the area surrounding
the Range Fuels Soperton Plant site,” she said.

Mitch Mandich, CEO of Range Fuels, said this project will inform future
expansion decisions by the green energy company. “As we think about expanding
production beyond our Soperton Plant, which will use woody biomass, we need to
start understanding how a variety of high-yield, minimal impact biomass
feedstocks, such as those being explored by Ceres, can assist in our expansion
efforts. Our relationship with Ceres will be invaluable in this process.”

Ceres recently announced that it will commercialize its first seed
varieties under the trade name Blade Energy Crops. Rath said that the company
will begin booking seed orders this fall for the 2009 growing season. “We are
getting calls from agricultural producers interested in putting 10 or 20 acres
in the ground to gain a better understanding of these crops. Some are located
near existing or planned biorefineries, while others are looking to attract
biorefineries to their area,” she said. Rath noted that grass crops appear to
be well suited to both thermochemical conversion systems as well as
biochemical processes that utilize enzymes in the production of biofuels.

U.S Supreme Court denies hearing in Murray landfill case

9 09 2008


By Mark Millican | The Dalton Citizen

CHATSWORTH — Murray County government has prevailed in a lawsuit filed against it that worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. By refusing to hear the case, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision by the Georgia Supreme Court in Murray’s favor on a landfill issue.

In 2004, the R&J Murray company filed suit in Murray County Superior Court against the county after former sole commissioner Tyson Haynes refused to write a letter to the state recommending that R&J be allowed to build a 398-acre landfill. Santek Environmental of Cleveland, Tenn., had already been given permission to build a landfill north of R&J Murray’s proposed site. Permitting for collecting solid waste is through the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which requires such letters from the appropriate local government.

Superior Court Judge Jack Partain ruled the permitting letter must be issued. Murray County appealed to the state Supreme Court, which returned the case to Superior Court to be reheard.

Murray County maintained that the proposed landfill would interfere with its solid waste management plan. R&J Murray contended the non-authorization violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against discrimination against interstate commerce. The county’s attorney, Stephen O’Day, relying on state law, argued an additional landfill would cause too much waste to be concentrated in one section of the county.

The state Supreme Court agreed with O’Day and sent the case back to Superior Court, where Partain issued a decision in line with the state Supreme Court ruling. R&J Murray appealed to the state Supreme Court, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court.

“That was the last straw for them,” O’Day said of R&J Murray. “Both the Georgia Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have affirmed that counties have the broad discretion and the responsibility to determine what is best for their counties under their solid waste management plans.”

Current sole commissioner Jim Welch, who inherited the lawsuit, said the county spent $358,000 defending it. He announced the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision at his Sept. 2 meeting.

Read on here.

For now, water grants for cities are gone

9 09 2008

In a year when Georgia has been weathering a historic drought and state legislators touted their new emphasis on water planning, a new program to expand local water supplies has evaporated in the state budget crunch.

In March, the Legislature approved $40 million for grants to local governments that wanted to build new reservoirs or expand existing ones, drill new wells, or create new connections between water systems. Gov. Sonny Perdue has announced that he is eliminating that funding as part of across-the-board cutbacks to offset a shortfall between the state budget and incoming revenue.

Virtually every state program is feeling the pressure, but few of them had received more political attention and fanfare this year than the need for water planning and increased water supply. The grant program was being administered by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.

In Middle Georgia, the city of Thomaston had applied for a grant to replace an old pump station that would help fill the city’s new reservoir. Thomaston was one of the few cities in Middle Georgia that banned all outdoor watering for a while last year because of concerns that its water supply was dipping too low.

Thomaston has purchased the reservoir formerly used by the now-closed Thomaston Mills. The city is deepening the reservoir and building a higher dam that will enable it to hold more water, City Manager Pat Comiskey said. This would increase by 50 percent the amount of water available to the city with its existing Hannah’s Mill Reservoir, he said.

The $6.6 million project was funded mostly by the city, but Thomaston was seeking a grant of about $1.5 million from the state. Without the grant, the city will likely rely on an existing, old pump station to fill the new lake from a nearby stream, Comiskey said. This will probably take longer but can suffice as long as the pump holds up, he said.

“We in Thomaston planned for our own needs,” he said. “When the grant funding came up, we saw it as a great opportunity. … But we certainly understand the economic situation.”

Thomaston was one of 13 local governments that had applied for loans, and about 20 other applications were expected by the state when the grant program was suspended a few weeks ago, said GEFA spokesman Shane Hix.

Read on here.