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Greenfield gives thumbs up to biomass moratorium

— It was clear a half-hour before Town Council took its vote on a petitioned moratorium on large-scale biomass wood-burning facilities that it was going to pass.

Early in the evening, the 13 councilors heard from a half-dozen residents who said they wanted them to support the 17-month moratorium.

Then, each councilor had a chance to voice their opinion.

“Residents have voiced their opposition to biomass,” said At-large Councilor Patrick Devlin, who said he supports doing a “careful and detailed study” on biomass and waste-to-energy burning before the town allows a facility to operate in Greenfield.

It still is not clear how or if the moratorium will affect the 47-megawatt biomass plant planned for Butternut Street in the industrial park.

At-large Councilor Mark Wisnewski said he was going to vote “yes,” because he felt it was prudent that the town make sure it has ordinances in place before dealing with such issues.

“I think it’s prudent and reasonable,” said Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Kaltzberg.

Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner said she believes the moratorium is a great opportunity to give the issue time and thoughtfulness.

At-large Councilor Mark Maloni said public health was at the top of his list of reasons for voting “yes” to a moratorium.

The petition, which was penned by Shelburne Falls resident Janet Sinclair and was signed by at least 25 Greenfield voters, was presented to the town several months ago.

After holding a joint public hearing, the town’s Planning Board decided not to send a recommendation to the council, partly because its members couldn’t agree on what the recommendation would be, while the council’s Economic Development Committee sent a positive unanimous recommendation.

In the end, 11 of the 13 councilors voted to pass the moratorium. Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis abstained — Allis was one of the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals who voted three years ago to issue a special permit for the Pioneer Renewable Energy biomass plant.

According to Sinclair, Greenfield is the first town in Franklin County, and possibly the state, to have a moratorium on biomass and waste-to-energy facilities.

After the council meeting was adjourned on Wednesday night, Mayor William Martin said the moratorium is a good thing.

“It will give the town the tools it needs to review any new information,” said Martin. “It makes a lot of sense.” Sinclair said she was “very pleased for Greenfield and Franklin County.” The moratorium will last until Sept. 15, 2014.

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