Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Biodiesel tank clears P&Z hurdle

School District is at odds with residents over location of facility

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District wants to build a biodiesel fueling facility to fuel its fleet of school buses. Photo by Mountain Express

The Blaine County School District may soon store its own biodeisel at the district's bus maintenance facility southeast of the Community Campus, rather than buying it at a Chevron Station on Main Street.

But some residents living near the proposed tank site are not happy about it. They claim that fueling buses will pose a problem due to diesel fumes and exhaust from idling buses.

Nevertheless, the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission voted Monday to recommend the City Council amend a conditional use permit to allow construction of a 12,000-gallon tank that would be used to fuel buses at the school district's bus barn beside the Community Campus.

The school district agreed to shift school buses to B20 biodiesel some five years ago when the city approved construction of the bus facility. District Business Manager Mike Chatterton said in April that the only way he could get B20 biodiesel was to put it in the district's own tank. The fact that B-20 is now available at the Chevron station on Main Street was not enough to sway the commission away from its decision.

Chatterton said the new tank would reduce the number of trips school buses must make on Fox Acres Road to get fuel downtown, and therefore save money and reduce pollution.

Several nearby residents came to City Hall to protest the new tank. They included Steve Bynum, who said the bus facility was only allowed by residents five years ago because it was agreed that no fueling would take place there.

"This is reneging on a serious promise," Bynum said.

Commission Chairman Owen Scanlon responded by saying the district shouldn't have given that option away, and couldn't have anticipated future needs.

Commissioners Scanlon, Geoffrey Moore and David Lloyd voted for the new tank, after three alternate sites near the high school were deemed unsuitable.

"I appreciate you concern as neighbors, but as a community we have to embrace this thing," Scanlon said.

Commissioner Mark Johnstone cast the only vote against the tank.

"I find it appalling that we can't find a way to schedule the fueling of buses at Chevron," he said.

B20 is 20 percent biodiesel, a fuel derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, and 80 percent regular diesel. The fuel is considered environmentally friendly because it produces fewer particulate and carbon monoxide emissions than does petroleum-based diesel.

Tony Evans:

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