Springfield Biomass Power Plant Oppponent Launch State Court Challenge

Ben Carmichael

Seek Reversal of Flawed DEP Decision Allowing PRE Power Plant to Worsen Air Pollution and Related Health Impacts 

CONTACT:
Ben Carmichael|
Conservation Law Foundation
(617) 850-1743,
bcarmichael@clf.org

BOSTON AND SPRINGFIELD, MA  October 11, 2012 — Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Arise for Social Justice, Toxics Action Center (TAC) and over a dozen individual residents today filed a new lawsuit in Hampden County Superior Court seeking to overturn a state permit that would allow the Palmer Renewable Energy (PRE) biomass power plant to emit harmful air pollution. The lawsuit takes aim at the September 11, 2012 “Final Decision” from Massachusetts Department of Environmental (DEP) Protection Commissioner Ken Kimmell upholding a DEP air permit for PRE’s wood-burning power plant project in Springfield. The organizations, together with a group of local residents, long have opposed the plant because it will add air pollution to a community with childhood asthma rates already double the state average.  Through today’s action, they are seeking to reverse PRE’s air permit and hold DEP accountable for protecting against harmful air pollution that disproportionately affects the Springfield area.

“We cannot stand by as the Patrick Administration turns its back on Springfield area residents who already suffer from poor air quality that DEP is now allowing to get worse,” said Michaelann Bewsee, Executive Director at Arise for Social Justice.

The power plant lacks the local approvals it needs to go forward:  last year, the City Council overturned a 2008 Special Permit that had been granted for a different and earlier version of the project, and this year the Zoning Board of Appeals rescinded a building permit that had been erroneously granted to PRE.  Those local decisions have been appealed by PRE in litigation that is currently pending.

“We are proud of Springfield City Council and the Zoning Board of Appeals for revoking PRE’s local permits. Through our lawsuit, we seek to ensure that the state does its job to protect the people of Springfield, too,” noted Bewsee.

Sue Reid, VP and Director of CLF Massachusetts, said, “DEP is inappropriately elevating the rights of polluters above the people and environment the agency is charged with protecting. We seek to hold DEP accountable for reducing, not increasing, air pollution consistent with the requirements of Massachusetts law.”

Background

The wood-burning power plant that is the subject of DEP’s September 11 air permitting approval was first proposed by Palmer Renewable Energy in 2008 as a 38 Megawatt (MW) facility that would have combusted contaminated construction and demolition debris to produce electricity at the Palmer Paving site in an environmental justice community in Springfield. In the face of enormous public outcry and an ensuing moratorium implemented by DEP, PRE went back to the drawing board and proposed the current project—a 35 MW facility that would burn a substantially greater volume of “green” wood, reducing some toxic air emissions as compared to the earlier proposal, yet increasing other impacts in Springfield and beyond. Arise, CLF, TAC and the Ten Residents Group were among hundreds who participated and raised serious concerns during the ensuing DEP public hearing regarding the proposed air pollution permit for the PRE power plant project. DEP’s September 11 decision follows an appeal of, and upholds, a DEP air permit that would allow the PRE power plant to emit dozens of tons of harmful fine particulates and hundreds of thousands of tons of damaging global warming pollution each year, among other impacts.

Arise for Social Justice is a non-profit, low-income, membership, anti-oppression advocacy group in Springfield, Massachusetts that aims to build awareness and political power for the poor.  Arise has been extensively involved in local and state activities related to environmental, public health and permitting reviews for the PRE project.

Toxics Action Center is a non-profit public health and environmental organization that works side by side communities to clean up and prevent pollution and to develop non-traditional leaders to broaden the environmental movement. For the past 25 years, Toxics Action Center has assisted more than 700 community groups across New England to stand up to polluters and tackle local environmental threats.  Toxics Action Center staff have been extensively involved in local and state activities related to reviewing the PRE project.

 

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that preserve natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

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