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So burning construction waste is 'green?'

Date: 6/22/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Now who I am to question Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles? I'm not an expert on the way a biomass plant can affect the air quality of a community. I'm not an expert on energy productions.

Nope, I'm just an old reporter who will be forced to breathe the air that will carry whatever chemicals the proposed Palmer Renewables plant on Page Boulevard in Springfield spews up.

By the way, before any of you dismiss this as just a "Springfield" problem, guess again. Winds will be carrying whatever is placed in the air by this plant all over the valley.

Bowles decided that enough due diligence had been done on the plant and waived having an environmental impact study completed for it this time last year.

The plant has just two more hurdles to clear before it will be a reality.

I don't understand why an environmental report was unnecessary because this plant will be the first one in the state at which construction waste will be burned to generate steam to make electricity.

Everyone with a fireplace or wood stove knows you're only supposed to burn clean, dry wood for the most efficient and safest heat. So what happens when you start burning scrap wood from old homes? Is it wet? Has it been painted, stained or treated somehow?

Yes, I know the proponents say the wood will be sorted and cleaned prior to tossing it in the fire. I'm just a little skeptical about the effectiveness of this process.

Why is the state even allowing this kind of enterprise? It's not "green." Instead of reducing an overall carbon footprint, we're now adding to it.

Think about it for a moment. If the state or the feds enacted provisions that made it easier for people to develop solar or wind applications I'd have a bank of solar panels on my roof if I could afford them or if the insulation of buildings to increase energy efficiency was required wouldn't that be better for all of us?

Those measures would put people to work and build a truly green energy infrastructure. I can't see how burning someone's trash is "green."

And when the parade of trucks carrying waste from around the Northeast hits Page Boulevard, we'll have not only an additional source of pollution, but also more traffic on an already busy street.

This is another misstep by the Patrick Administration.


It was a pleasure to sit with John Ratzenberger last week and hear him speak about what can be done to address the growing problem of a lack of skilled blue-collar workers in this country.

If you think a guy like Ratzenberger, who has made his fame and fortune primarily as a comic actor who was "on" during the interview, guess again. He was as serious as a heart attack and rightly so.

In this area we have some excellent vocational schools that offer programs that prepare students for entrance into the job market. These schools strengthen our local economy by providing a pool of skilled entry-level workers.

The problem is that for the last 30 or 40 years, there has been a constant emphasis that a college prep education is the preferable path for high school students. Too many people have viewed vocational education as something for kids who aren't "college material."

That is, of course, wrong on several different levels.

The reality is that many kids are shoved off to college who either shouldn't go to college or who should at least wait until they figure out what kind of college education is right for them.

This area has a very rich history of manufacturing and parents should work with local school officials to make sure kids have a very real choice for their future.

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.