Wednesday, December 07, 2011 • 12:56 PM Comments ()

Good News for Plant Opponents

posted by Maureen Turner

Last week, I wrote here about the string of bad news for opponents of the wood-burning power plant proposed in East Springfield by Palmer Renewable Energy.

This week, the opponents got some better news, regarding their attempt to appeal an air-quality permit granted the project by the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmel yesterday rejected a recommended ruling from a DEP hearing officer who had found that the opponents did not have legal standing to appeal the permit. In his decision, Kimmel pointed to the unresolved “recurring issue” of whether citizens have the legal right to appeal such a permit, writing that that the Springfield group should be granted “an opportunity to be heard,” and directing the DEP officer to address the merits of their case. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for March.

In the meantime, all eyes are back on the City Council which will once again take up the plant issue this evening, at a 5 p.m. meeting.

At a meeting last week, a majority of councilors appeared poised to vote to appeal the building permit issued last month by City Hall to Palmer Renewable Energy. That vote was blocked, however, by at-large Councilor Kateri Walsh, who invoked Rule 20, a procedural tactic that allows any councilor to delay a vote until the city finance officials produce an analysis of what the proposed action would cost. In this case, the city comptroller found the appeal could cost the city about $15,000 if an attorney is hired to represent the Council in its appeal. Councilors would not necessarily need to hire an attorney however, and could instead simply testify before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Lee Ann Warner, a member of Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, told the Advocate that she expects the Council to vote to pursue the appeal tonight.

“We’re feeling very relieved that we are where we are now,” Warner said, in reference to Kimmel’s ruling. And, regardless of how the March hearing turns out, she added, the Conservation Law Foundation, which has been representing STIS, pro bono, is committed to taking their case to Superior Court if necessary. “So it’s not going to be over for a long time,” Warner said.

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