IN THE NEWS: Environment
PETITION SEEKS TO HALT BIOMASS PLANT: It appears a citizens petition to stop large-scale wood-burning facilities from being built in Greenfield for the next year and a half will go to Town Council for a vote as written.
On March 22, the Planning Board, which will send the council its recommendation after its meeting Thursday, discussed the proposed biomass energy and waste-to-energy moratorium written by Janet Sinclair of Shelburne Falls and signed by a couple dozen Greenfield residents. Three of the five board members expressed some hesitation about the moratorium language being “too vague in some spots.” They expressed their concern about how restrictive the moratorium could end up being if some of its language isn’t tightened, and that it could end up blocking much smaller projects, like an anaerobic digester the town is thinking about for its transfer station.
According to how it is written, the “moratorium shall apply to any biomass facility that has a capacity of more than 1 million Btus per hour, and to all waste-to-energy facilities.” But Sinclair said this week that she and those who signed the petition like it the way it is written and have no intention of changing the wording.
“We aren’t going to withdraw this one — absolutely not,” said Sinclair.
If petitioners did decide to rewrite the petition, it would have to go through the process all over again, which means the board and the council’s Economic Development Committee would each have to hold a public hearing, or a joint one. Then, both would have to send a recommendation to the council.
Opponents of the 47-megawatt wood-burning power plant proposed for the industrial park, which received a special permit from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals in 2010, said they had hoped they’d be able to stop that plant with the moratorium, but said they’ve been told that can’t happen.
Some still question whether that is true, because Matthew Wolfe of Madera Energy Inc. of Cambridge, the company that wants to build the Pioneer Renewable Energy plant, has been ordered by a Superior Court judge to amend the special permit, which means he will have to go before the board to discuss his new plans for dry cooling, instead of wet cooling that was part of the original plan that was permitted.
Wolfe has until some time in July to go before the board. After that, his permit would be nullified.
This has people wondering whether that means Wolfe technically does not have a permit until it is amended and, therefore, would be subject to the moratorium, which petitioners are asking be put in place until September 2014.
“We don’t have a problem with the petition,” said Sinclair. “We wrote it and think it’s very clear.” Sinclair said if the council asks for the moratorium to be reworded, it will be considered.
“We would go along with minor changes,” said Sinclair. “We like our petition.” “We don’t see anything wrong with asking that the town slow down and do its homework over the next year and a half,” said Sinclair.
She said that petitioners are hoping the moratorium leads to a new ordinance concerning biomass and other types of burning for power.
Sinclair said that she and petitioners are also concerned about wood burning and other types of burning on a much smaller scale, but are asking for the moratorium on larger projects at this point.
“ We don’t see anything wrong with asking that the town slow down and do its homework over the next year and a half.
— Anita Fritz