Deadline looms for comments
Date: 11/3/2010Nov. 3, 2010
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD -- Opponents of a proposed biomass plant have charged that Palmer Renewable Energy (PRE) is attempting to push its new application through the state system before federal emissions regulations change in July 2011.
They are calling on residents in greater Springfield to write state officials on their opposition to the plant. The state will accept comments through Nov. 9.
"It's the same old incinerator just with a new hair-do," Lee Ann Warner of Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield (STIS) told Reminder Publications.
Numerous health organizations joined with environmental groups to protest the previous plan to burn construction and demolition waste.
PRE had been applying to the state for a permit to construct an electrical generation plan off Page Boulevard in Springfield that would use construction and demolition waste as fuel. On Oct. 6, PRE notified the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) that it was changing its fuel to green wood chips.
The move came after local opposition to the biomass plant resulted in two on-going state investigations on the harmful health and environmental impacts of burning construction and demolition waste.
In its application change form to the EOEEA, PRE wrote the switch of fuels will decrease the amount of electricity generated from 38 to 35 megawatts and will also reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide.
The application also indicated a new site plan for the facility has been developed with an improved traffic plan to direct the trucks delivering the wood chips.
The application noted the plant would:
"• supply enough reliable, base-load energy to power the equivalent of 30,000 homes.
"• increase the industrial tax base of the city of Springfield.
"• create substantial new employment opportunities in the construction, operation, and procurement of fuel for the facility.
"• increase the diversity of the Commonwealth's energy supply.
"• productively use green wood chips.
"• substantially lower levels of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides emissions relative to oil and coal-fired power plants.
"• help combat global climate change as a low net carbon energy source."
The amended facility would use 1,184 tons of wood daily trucked into the plant. According to its filing, PRE would use wood supplied by Northern Tree Service Inc. of Palmer and "be limited to clean (uncontaminated) non-forest woody material, such as, tree stems, branches, stumps and brush derived from the following sources:
" commercial tree care service and landscaping firms;
" state and municipal tree and brush removal storage areas which many include clean pallets;
"• state and municipal park and recreation departments and tree care divisions;
"• utility line construction and maintenance firms;
"• development, land clearing and excavating firms;
The state's definition of "clean wood" that could be burnt at the PRE plant includes "whole trees, tree trimmings, cord wood, logs, lumber, stump grindings, saw dust, wood pellets, slabs, bark, chips, waste pallets, and/or wooden boxes."
Warner said considering the small amount of electricity that will be generated by the plant -- about one third of 1 percent of the state's energy needs -- "it's hard to understand why this [project] is going forward."
Warner said the amount of particulate pollution would be the same from the new plant as the old. The size of the particulates that would be produced here is of real concern for those with lung ailments, she explained, as they would be small enough to enter the "deepest part of your lung."
STIS estimates there will be now 140 truck trips a day along Page Boulevard to supply wood chips to the PRE plant.
Mary Booth, who holds a PhD. in ecology and is part of the Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance, disputes many of the statements made by PRE in its new application.
Booth said, "There are a lot of gimmicks in the new application."
For instance, she does not believe that Northern Tree Service will be able to supply enough green wood chips for the project. Massachusetts foresters already use wood chips in a variety of applications from mulch to fuel trucked to biomass plants in Maine, she noted. While PRE maintains the new plant would lower emissions from trucks transporting wood chips out of state, Booth said those plants would simply buy chips from other out-of-state sources and there would be no reductions in emissions.
She strongly disputed that emission of nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide would be decreased with the new fuel as claimed in the new application.
To send a letter to the EOEEA concerning the plant, go to the following Web site: www.springfieldincinerator.info/actions.html