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ARON HARTSFIELD ALREADY knew his signature had been forgedonthedocumentsubmit ted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. There was no way he had withdrawn his opposition to a biomass energy plant near his neighborhood in Lufkin. Nevertheless, he exploded in anger when the document arrived in the mail. So he marched over to a community meeting held by the plant’s owner, Aspen Power. “I was hot. I went over to the community meeting and asked them who signed my name to something I didn’t want,” he says. No one ‘fessed up. But afterward, the alleged forgery and the stubborn determination of Hartsfield and other neighborhood activists succeeded in forcing Aspen Power to spend an additional $10 million dollars on air pollution controls at its plant. And it might lead to tougher emission standards for similar plants in Texas. The battle between Aspen Power and low-income residents in Lufkin exemplifies the problems with renewable energy. Despite some activists touting these projects as solutions to global warming, and politicians promoting them as the key to economic prosperity, renewable energy projects tend to have their own sets of problems for local residentsprobably none more so than biomass incineration. There is no universally agreed-upon definition for biomass. Most often these projects mean burning organic material, usually waste wood, to create steam, which then turns power-producing turbines. Biomass incineration is considered to be a green alternative to coal because it produces fewer deadly gases, but because it still involves combustion, it remains controversial among environmentalists. And even if you agree that burning wood is better than burning coal, you don’t necessarily want a biomass plant next door. Hartsfield certainly didn’t, and he spent years fighting it in a case that dredged up accusations of racism, corruption and cronyism. IN 2007, THE LUFKIN PLANNING and Zoning Commission proposed to allow Aspen Power to construct a biomass incineration plant next to Hartsfield’s African-American neighborhood in north Lufkin. The plant would become the latest in a long string of forestry-related facilities in the same area. In an oversight of either towering arrogance or mind-numbing stupidity, the city failed to notify the people of north Lufkin about the plan. It didn’t take long, though, for word to get around the mostly working-class neighborhood. Hartsfield and his neighbors got angry. They started a petition opposing the plant and sent it to TCEQ, the state agency that grants air quality permits. The neighbors began attending city council meetings and protesting. “There was a lot of people at those meetings and they were upset,” says Hartsfield. Residents accused the city of environmental racism. They raised fears about more pollution in a neighborhood that had for decades been filled with industrial fumes and noise. Then a man named Eric Jones, an outsider, began organizing community meetings and talking to people