US Biomass power station plans opposed
- SPRINGFIELD Massachusetts - A proposed wood-burning energy plant in East Springfield got a cold reception Monday night as one speaker after another stood up and condemned the idea at a public hearing.
None of the nearly 20 speakers who addressed the panel of state health and environmental officials supported the $150 million biomass project planned by Palmer Renewal Energy at 1000 Page Blvd.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is preparing to hire a consultant to study the health and environmental impact of burning wood from construction, renovation and demolition at the Springfield plant.
Plants under consideration in Russell and Greenfield would burn so-called "clean wood," generally from wood scraps or logging operations.
During the two-hour session at the John F. Kennedy Middle School on Berkshire Avenue, opponents repeatedly pointed out that the Springfield plant would pose too many health and environmental risks, and generate too little electricity in the process.
"This is a Neanderthal - it's reminiscent of something from 100 years ago," said Kurt M. Freedman, a Longmeadow engineer and professor at Western New England College.
"The air quality in Springfield is bad enough already," said Jean C. Caldwell, of Springfield, adding that three schools would be located within a mile of the plant and the city already has an unusually high asthma rate for school-age children.
Others questioned why the state is willing to pay for a study, given how little is known about the risks of plants that burn construction or demolition materials.
"The state should just save its money," said Bonnie L. Tessman, of West Springfield. She also expressed concern that if the project has advanced this far, the state had an interest in seeing it built. "You can't legislate common sense," Tessman added. "You have to have it."
James Colman, of the state environmental department, assured the crowd that the review process is still in the early stages, and the department wants to study the amount of potentially harmful contaminants that would be emitted from the plant, and determine if they can be minimized.
Suzanne K. Condon, of the state Department of Public Health, also said the two agencies have a strong record of working together to protect state residents.
"I can't remember the (public health officials) saying this is a really horrible problem, and the DEP looking the other way," Condon said.
Several members of a Russell group opposed to the so-called biomass plant in that town also appeared at the hearing, carrying signs reading: Keep Russell Clean Green and Pristine - No Biomass."