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Wind farm foes may be willing to accept Oneida plant

MORRISON – Residents who have been fighting area wind farm developments might soon be asked if they would rather have a trash-recycling energy plant in their town.

Morrison officials say allowing Oneida Seven Generations Corp. to build its controversial recycling plant here could strengthen the town’s hand in stopping wind energy projects.

The Oneida Tribe of Indians-owned company has been rebuffed elsewhere in seeking to build a facility to process household trash at high temperatures – a process known as gasification or pyrolysis – in a way that generates electricity.

“I think it’s a good concept,” Morrison Town Chairman Todd Christensen said. “Do I think it belongs here in Morrison? I don’t know.”

Opponents have rejected the Oneida concept in Green Bay, Ashwaubenon and elsewhere because of concerns that it would create pollution and threaten public health. Oneida Seven Generations currently is pushing a site on tribal land in Outagamie County, but tribal members are fighting it.

Morrison Town Board members discussed the Oneida project earlier this week while reviewing strategies to block large-scale wind farm developments in their Brown County community.

Officials are trying to craft a local ordinance that would give them ammunition to fend off wind farms that are proposed to the state Public Service Commission. By outlining other alternative energy projects permitted in Morrison, officials hope to find some bargaining leverage with state regulators.

Town attorney Steven Gillis said he mentioned the Oneida gasification plant as a “purely hypothetical example” of something that might help keep out unwanted wind farms.

Gillis noted that Morrison is located in a rural area where air pollution would dissipate, and that a future proposed landfill in Holland could provide a steady source of trash for the recycling plant.

“This would make good sense, I think, on a number of levels,” he said.

Morrison officials said they have not talked with Oneida Seven Generations. But they do not rule out doing so in the future.

Town Board member Kevin Collins said the town was presented with a concept about a year ago for recycling livestock manure as an alternative energy source. Collins said he would be willing to consider the Oneida project, too.

“We have to study it some more,” he said.

Christensen said a show of support from townsfolk could “start the ball rolling” on an Oneida Seven Generations development. Saying he could not predict how residents would respond, Christensen said people have made it clear that they want to prevent a large wind farm from coming here.

“Obviously there’s enough controversy with wind,” he said. “Is there something that the town would accept?”