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Biomass plant may move forward


Aug. 29, 2014

By G. Michael Dobbs
news@thereminder.com

SPRINGFIELD – Whether or not the opponents of the proposed biomass plant on Page Boulevard will seek to appeal the decision made by the Massachusetts Land Court has yet to be decided.

The opponents have 30 days starting on Aug. 15 to file the appropriate papers. The Land Court reversed a decision made by the Springfield Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and reinstated the building permit needed by Palmer Renewable Energy (PRE) to construct the plant.

The plant has proven to be controversial, as it will burn green wood scraps to generate electricity.
   
Springfield City Solicitor Edward Pikula explained to Reminder Publications the ZBA, the City Council and the several individuals involved in the legal case, including Michaelann Bewsee of ARISE for Social Justice, would be the parties who would have to file an appeal.
   
Pikula added an appeal does not stop the legal and governmental process to get the plant approved. The opponents would have to seek a stay issued by the court to put a hold on the project.
   
City Council President Michael Fenton said of the situation, “There are a lot of unanswered questions.”
   
Fenton said the council would have to determine if it has the legal standing to appeal the ruling and if it should appeal the ruling.
   
“To get the best answer, we need to determine our best course of action,” he said.
   
Fenton added, “We’re going to play some role watching this discussion as it moves forward. The main issue is not yet clear to me if we have [legal] standing.”
   
He believes the ZBA has legal standing to appeal.
   
Fenton said he would have “a lot more certainty in the next few weeks.”
   
The ZBA did not return a phone call asking if that body intended the appeal.
   
Bewsee said she is looking at the legal options before her and has not yet contacted her attorney. She added she hopes the ZBA would appeal the ruling.
   
“I was surprised and so was everyone else,” she said. “It’s rare for the Land Court to overturn a local zoning board.”
   
She said an additional way to slow down or stop the project would be through the Public Health Council calling a hearing.
   
Bewsee wrote on the ARISE website, “PRE’s intentions are to produce 38 MG of energy by burning waste wood.  Some of you may remember that originally, PRE wanted to burn construction and demolition debris to produce energy, which would be very inexpensive for them, but the community uproar was so loud that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) put a moratorium on all permits to burn construction and debris.  That’s when PRE decided to burn waste wood instead.  But of course waste wood still comes from trees – PRE has chosen to use the word ‘renewable’ in its company’s name, but trees are not renewable in any time frame that makes sense when you consider the importance of trees capturing the carbon that is altering the climate of our planet.
   
She continued, “With nearly one out of five kids in Springfield living (or dying) with asthma, we have come to the conclusion that burning anything to produce energy is a step in the wrong direction.”
   
Bewsee added, “It’s an admitted fact that PRE’s incinerator will produce 13.2 tons of gaseous Hazardous Air Pollutants and 13.4 tons of gaseous ammonia – and yet, those amounts are within what DEP considers allowable to receive an air permit.  We’re working with the Conservation Law Foundation to appeal the issuance of the air permit.”

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