Thursday, December 3, 2009

Smoke Screen

There was a hearing Wednesday night being held by the Mass Dept. of Environmental Protection; taking public commentary on whether or not to grant Palmer Renewable Energy a permit to go ahead with building a biomass plant in Springfield.

I'd read something about this on Bill Dusty's blog, and since I live and breathe about 3 or four miles away from the proposed wood and debris burning plant, I thought I'd give it a closer look.

The hearing was being held at Kennedy Middle School, and there were two lines going in: one to be seated, and one to sign up to make a public comment; both were long.



The place filled up just about to capacity...





...and the DEP members braced themselves while John Mullins; Umass Dean and moderator for the evening, read off some preliminaries...



video

Finally, the commentary began. Speaker after speaker came up on stage; Some had broad knowledge of what kind of pollution a plant burning construction and demolition debris would generate, with specific numbers and parts-per-millions chemical counts of arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury...



Others spoke of the impossibility of separating these dangerous chemicals from building debris, with examples of these poisons regularly found in fuel burned in similar plants in Florida and New Hampshire.





The indomitable Michaelann Bewsee declared that while she was no expert on the technicalities of air pollution and biomass plants she is however an expert on representing those who are left out of the processes of government and business. She took strong issue with the too little public outreach made in the processes and debate, especially in informing the less enfranchised citizens of Springfield.



This man, a member of the Springfield Traffic Commission, highlighted a not so talked about aspect of building the plant on busy Page Boulevard. Namely, the extremely heavy truck traffic it takes to drop off 700 tons of building debris per day. Figuring an average of 20 tons or so on each massive, loud, diesel burning, pavement destroying truck, there will be a stream of these behemoths running all day, every day. The cost in air pollution, noise pollution, traffic congestion and road repair needs to also be considered. He finished off his commentary with "Who the hell came up with this plan?"



I heard over a dozen speakers, and was hoping to hear a supporter or two to balance my so-far-not-very-positive opinion of this plan; but unfortunately in the nearly two hours I was there, not one came up to speak. Here's a short montage of some of the anti-biomass commentary, starting with Michaelann...



That last speaker came up with the line of the night, I thought, when she summarized with "...in the age of the ipod, why are we being sold 8-track tape?"

5 comments:

Mike said...

Thanks for keeping us informed with both words and pictures.

Tony said...

No problem, Mike. Hope it helps the discussion...

Theresa said...

Glad you covered this. It was hardly on anyone's radar and maybe it will be now.

AdamH said...

I was there and I'm so glad I went. I, too, was wondering if there would be any supporters other than the owners. I was dubious about this plant from when I first learned about it (thanks to Michaelann's blog) but going to the hearing definitely made me against it. I left after an hour (after MB spoke, actually).

Before the hearing began I was standing by the owner and his associates, and I couldn't help but overhear one of them saying that the audience was the NIMBY crowd. That really annoyed me. I wish I'd said something.

Tony said...

It seems like any one who actually hears about it is against it; hopefully it's not too late...