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Lewis digester project dead with Kraft

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LOWVILLE — A large-scale manure digester project proposed between Kraft Foods and CH4 Biogas is dead after Kraft Foods accepted ReCharge NY funding for reduced power rates.

CH4 Biogas, however, hopes to revive the project as it pursues a farm to host the digester.

“The deal with Kraft fell through,” Martinsburg Town Supervisor Terry J. Thisse said. “The whole digester project was contingent upon making an agreement with Kraft. They’ve renegotiated with the Power Authority for a better rate and decided not to pursue the project with CH4.”

Mr. Thisse was in contact with CH4 as the town of Martinsburg was considering locating the digester within town boundaries. Mr. Thisse said he was told CH4 wants to “pursue a local, larger farm for power to sell back to the grid.”

A community anaerobic digester was first considered in September 2008 when Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County and area businesses met to discuss how agricultural and food waste would be converted to biogas.

Martinsburg officials showed some interest in the project after the village of Lowville voiced opposition to the digester within village limits as well as in the town of Lowville boundaries.

After considering an anaerobic digester law and drawing up a preliminary law, the Lowville Town Council voted 5-0, Jan. 17, to send a draft law to the Lewis County Planning Board. The law would prevent large digesters from being built in the town.

The possibility of the joint CH4 and Kraft project has been off the table since at least Jan. 3 when, according to Lewis County Industrial Development Agency meeting minutes, a meeting between Kraft, CH4 and IDA Director Richard H. Porter was described as “unfavorable.” The minutes also state, “Kraft now has an agreement with the Power Authority.”

Mr. Porter declined to comment about the meeting or minutes.

A Kraft Foods spokeswoman, in an email to Johnson Newspapers, stated, “There is no agreement or working relationship between Kraft Foods and CH4 Biogas. CH4 Biogas did approach Kraft Foods plant in Lowville ... back in March 2011. This occurred after CH4 first initiated discussions with the Lewis County development agency about possible plans for a Lowville community digester. The company then approached us about purchasing electricity or using dairy based byproducts. We have been quite clear with CH4 Biogas that we could only consider enabling technologies that allow us to improve our cost structure and sustainability efforts. They have not been able to meet those requirements.”

CH4 did not return calls seeking comment.

Kraft Foods is one of four Lewis County businesses to be approved allocations through the New York Power Authority ReCharge New York Program. HDK Wood Products, Harrisville; Omniafiltra LLC, Beaver Falls; and Qubica AMF Bowling, Lowville, also received reduced rates.

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