Springfield, MA City Council Votes to Appeal Biomass Permit Ruling

- by Ryan Trowbridge, September 10, 2014, WGGB

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"138","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"line-height: 20.6719989776611px; width: 180px; height: 134px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;"}}]]Wednesday night, the Springfield City Council took up the contentious issue of a planned biomass incinerator in the city.

Opponents claim the plant would only add more pollution to an already polluted city, but the state just ruled Springfield does not have the authority to stop its development.

It’s an issue several years in the making and Wednesday, the City Council met to vote on what it should do next in the battle to keep the plant from being built.

Palmer Renewable Energy is looking to build a $150 million biomass wood burning plant in Springfield. The biomass plant, near Page Boulevard and Cadwell Drive, Would produce 35 megawatts of electricity.

Opponents, however, say it’s dirty energy and would further pollute the Springfield area.

So in 2012, the City Council and Zoning Board of Appeals repealed the building permit and in response, Palmer Renewable Energy sued in the Massachusetts Land Court.

That court decided in August to immediately reinstate the developers building permit – ruling the Zoning Board overstepped its authority.

Tonight, one of the main concerns of the council was that they are in no position to pay for legal counsel if they do appeal and ultimately, they voted 11-1 to appeal – something that made most of the citizens here very happy.

“It’s a step in the right direction. I’m really glad the council came through for us tonight. The next message is call the mayor,” says Michaelann Bewsee from Arise for Social Justice.

This biomass burning plant has drawn criticism from several community groups, including Arise for Social Justice, which describes itself as a low income rights and anti-oppression organization in Springfield. Several concerned members from the group showed up at tonight’s council meeting and were very vocal in their opposition.

Currently, the City Council does not have approval from the mayor to pay for the appeal.