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Biomass questions continue to bother me

Date: 8/2/2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

When I was covering the meeting to solicit comment about a new study commissioned by the state on burning wood to generate electricity -- known as biomass I ran into a person who has been opposing the proposed biomass plant in Springfield.

Remember that one? This plant wouldn't burn wood chips -- the subject of the study discussed that evening but rather it would incinerate construction and demolition waste.

Many people throughout Hampden County are vehemently opposed to the project on the very legitimate grounds such a plant which would bring with it a steady stream of trucks carrying waste from other states would add considerable pollutants to our already polluted air.

Yes, I know the proponents say whatever goes into the plant to be burned will be "clean" and nasty elements such as lead paint, plastic and asbestos won't be allowed. Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that could be accomplished.

When this fellow told me the Springfield plant is still a viable project, I was stunned. So the state was seriously considering the implications of burning wood chips on the atmosphere but they hadn't trashed what nearly anyone would tell you is an incredibly stupid idea?

If the Patrick Administration allows the construction and demolition waste plant to move forward, the governor is sending two important messages the voters might hear on election day: that he really doesn't give a fig for Western Massachusetts after all and he is willing to put short-term business interests in front of effective long-term environment and energy policies.

Various voters have litmus tests they apply to candidates. This will be one of mine.


Congratulations to Michael Harrison and the staff of Talkers Magazine on their 20th anniversary. Harrison is one the of smartest media guys I know and reading each issue of the bible of the talk radio industry is both a joy and an education. Its production in Springfield is another feather in our cap.


If you've not picked up a copy as yet this month of our sister publication, PRIME, please do so as PRIME editor Mike Briotta did a great job with an interview with chef, globetrotter and bad boy Anthony Bourdain.

What made his story even more memorable to us in the office was Bourdain's "colorful" language and how to deal with it. Mike and I had some interesting discussions and I used my editor's prerogative to lessen the impact of some of Bourdain's words.

Here's the minefield we live in: The words people find acceptable language on television or on the radio or in conversation may not be acceptable when read in your community newspaper.

Now, people who read our 'papers also listen to Bax and O'Brien and find them funny. I certainly do. They don't swear on the radio, but I could never use the same language or subject matter in this column they frequently use without finding myself unemployed. What is acceptable for our mutual audience on radio would not be acceptable for them in this newspaper.

The definition of what is politically correct also muddies the waters. If you hear a comedian on television tell an ethnic joke about his or her own group, you're allowed to find that funny. Repeat that joke at work and depending upon both you and your audience that acceptable joke could now be the focus of a hostile workplace charge.

Context is everything.

I know my language probably is a bit saltier in person than it should be. But considering I'm a newspaper editor who can't smoke a cigar in his office, who has been told a bottle of Wild Turkey in his desk drawer is against company rules and who shouldn't bark orders to his staff like Perry White, can't I keep my profanity? Please?

This column represents the opinions of its author. Please mail all letters to the editor to Reminder Publications Inc., 280 North Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028 or e-mail