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Tue November 22, 2011
Appeal Considered Of Biomass Building Permit
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – Developers of a controversial wood-burning power plant in Springfield Massachusetts have secured all the permits required to begin construction. But, opponents vow to exhaust all available appeals to block the project they say will cause air pollution and traffic jams.. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Palmer Renewable Energy has received a building permit from the city of Springfield to begin construction of a 150 million dollar biomass power plant on an industrial site in East Springfield. Earlier this year, the 35 megawatt plant received an air permit from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection..
Opponents of the project,who have appealed the granting of the air permit, believed the Springfield City Council had delt the plant a fatal blow last Spring when it voted 10 to 2 to deny a special permit. Palmer Renewable Energy sued the city. Last week, Springfield's building commissioner, Stephen Desilets issued a building permit, explaining that he and the city law department had concluded no special permit for the project was required. Its an opinion not shared by city councilor Michael Fenton and a majority of his colleagues on the council.
The council voted last night to hold a special meeting next Monday to consider an appeal to the building permit. City councilor Tim Allen says no one in Springfield wants the plant built.
Construction trade unions have lobbied for the project. The developer has pledged to use union labor and has estimated there will be 250 jobs. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has consistently supported the project, so long as it complies with applicable state and federal air quality standards
Jennifer Ruslow, a staff attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation of Massachusetts says state law prohibits construction of the plant without a final air permit.
The appeals division of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the agency's decision to give an air permit to the project. Jesse Lederman , a member of group called Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, says they'll exhaust all available avenues to stop the project.
By securing permits for the project, Palmer Renwable Energy is reportedly eligible for 65 million dollars in federal tax credits.
The administration of Governor Deval Patrick was initially a strong proponent of biomass as green energy source. But, it fell out of favor with the administration after a scientific study questioned the overall environmental impact of biomass. Earlier this year the administration produced new rules for power plants to qualify for renewalble energy credits. Under this rules, state officials said , the large scale biomass power plants proposed for Springfield, Russell and Greenfield, would not qualify for state tax credits.