Biomass plant that powers Fort Drum to close in March

Updated: Dec. 21, 2022 at 5:00 PM EST
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FORT DRUM, New York (WWNY) - The biomass facility which powers Fort Drum is set to close early next year. More than 2 dozen jobs are there and it supports dozens of logging and trucking jobs in the north country.

ReEnergy buys wood chips from local lumber yards and sawmills, transfers them into energy, and generates 100 percent of Fort Drum’s power, a rarity for the U.S. Army.

But that process isn’t considered renewable energy in New York state and the plant doesn’t qualify for certain incentives. ReEnergy filed a petition with the state, hoping for changes, in the summer of 2022.

In an email, a company spokesperson tells 7 News ReEnergy plans to terminate operations on March 31. However, the closure won’t proceed if the state’s Public Service Commission acts on the petition before January 31.

State Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush and Senator Joe Griffo have a bill in Albany, supported by both sides of the aisle, to classify biomass as renewable and keep this plant open.

But the bill isn’t even getting committee approval.

“We had as many Democrats on both sides, Senate and Assembly, and it didn’t come out. It’s another example of these clean energy people not understanding that biomass is clean energy,” said Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R. - 117th District).

Fort Drum will likely revert back to depending on National Grid for energy, but also has to follow the Army’s climate strategy, which requires carbon-free electricity for all installations by 2030.

There is language in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that would require the Defense Department to consider biomass as a renewable energy source.

What is Fort Drum doing to find a carbon-free energy source? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying to see if a hydro facility could be built along the Black River, which runs across Fort Drum.

A post spokesperson tells 7 News the year-long study started this past summer.