Monday, March 28, 2011 • 2:25 PM Comments ()

Don't Count Out City Council Yet

posted by Maureen Turner

Perhaps I spoke too soon in a recent blog post when I suggested the City Council has been sidelined in the battle over wood-burning power plant proposed for East Springfield: Despite a recent opinion by the city Law Department reiterating the contention that the Council does not have the authority to revoke a special permit granted for the project in 2008, it looks like some councilors are stepping up with a proposal to do just that.

As Pete Goonan recently reported in the Springfield Republican, Ward 3 Councilor Mel Edwards “has asked the Law Department to prepare the proper notices to the project developer, Palmer Renewable Energy, to appear before the council for a revocation vote on its 2008 special permit.”

That development came after a Council committee meeting on the controversial project, which an ever-growing group of opponents, including medical and neighborhood groups, contend would further compromise the area’s already poor air quality—and further hurt public health in a city that already has more than its share of health issues. One especially relevant measure: about 20 percent of Springfield school kids have asthma, twice the rate statewide.

Meanwhile, Goonan reports, Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak, who has expressed concerns about whether the developers might try to deviate down the road from their current plan to burn only “green” wood chips at the plant, is calling for an amendment to city zoning laws banning the burning of construction and demolition waste—which pose particular health risks through the release of things like lead and arsenic—at power plants. In addition, “Lysak also has asked for a requirement that any facility using just green wood require a special permit from the council and site assignment from the Public Health Council.”

Recently, plant opponents approached the Public Health Council asking the group of conduct an assessment of the project and its potential effect on the city’s public health.

Neither Edwards or Lysak were on the Council in 2008, when PRE was granted its land-use special permit. Four of the councilors who did vote for that permit still sit on the Council—at-large Councilors Jimmy Ferrera, Tim Rooke, Jose Tosado and Kateri Walsh. Tosado now says he opposes the project.

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