By ANITA FRITZ
Thursday, April 18, 2013
(Published in print: Thursday, April 18, 2013)
GREENFIELD — It was clear a half-hour before Town Council took its vote on a petitioned moratorium on large-scale biomass wood-burning facilities that it was
going to pass.
Early in the evening, the 13 councilors heard from a half-dozen residents who said they wanted them to support the 17-month moratorium.
Then, each councilor had a chance to voice their opinion.
“Residents have voiced their opposition to biomass,” said At-large Councilor Patrick Devlin, who said he supports doing a “careful and detailed study” on biomass and waste-to-energy burning before the town allows a facility to operate in Greenfield.
It still is not clear how or if the moratorium will affect the 47-megawatt biomass plant planned for Butternut Street in the industrial park.
At-large Councilor Mark Wisnewski said he was going to vote “yes,” because he felt it was prudent that the town make sure it has ordinances in place before dealing with such issues.
“I think it’s prudent and reasonable,” said Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Kaltzberg.
Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner said she believes the moratorium is a great opportunity to give the issue time and thoughtfulness.
At-large Councilor Mark Maloni said public health was at the top of his list of reasons for voting “yes” to a moratorium.
The petition, which was penned by Shelburne Falls resident Janet Sinclair, who graduated from Greenfield schools, and was signed by at least 25 Greenfield voters, was presented to the town several months ago.
After holding a joint public hearing, the town’s Planning Board decided not to send a recommendation to the council, partly because its members couldn’t agree on what the recommendation would be, while the council’s Economic Development Committee sent a positive unanimous recommendation.
In the end, 11 of the 13 councilors voted to pass the moratorium. Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis abstained — Allis was one of the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals who voted three years ago to issue a special permit for the Pioneer Renewable Energy biomass plant.
According to Sinclair, Greenfield is the first town in Franklin County, and possibly the state, to have a moratorium on biomass and waste-to-energy facilities.
After the council meeting was adjourned on Wednesday night, Mayor William Martin said the moratorium is a good thing.
“It will give the town the tools it needs to review any new information,” said Martin. “It makes a lot of sense.”
Sinclair said she was “very pleased for Greenfield and Franklin County.”
The moratorium will last until Sept. 15, 2014.
“The American Lung Association does not support incineration of waste or biomass for electricity or heat production. Combustion of these materials is a significant source of air pollution. Specifically, the levels of fine particles and precursors of ozone released through combustion raise serious health concerns. The relative impacts of these pollutants need to be carefully considered when weighing the pros and cons of different energy sources including the cumulative impacts of various wood burning practices in the Town, and how large biomass facilities and waste incinerators would add to those impacts.
Current local zoning laws leave citizens vulnerable to the negative health consequences of biomass and waste-to-energy incineration projects that may be proposed or built. This moratorium gives Greenfield an opportunity to consider the health impact of energy choices and allows its residents a chance to decide what is right for Greenfield.” - Kathleen King , Director of Public Policy, Massachusetts American Lung Association
Burning trash is dirty business. It produces huge quantities of global warming gases, releases toxins into the atmosphere, including potent carcinogens like dioxins and furans, and heavy metals such as mercury. It destroys needed recyclable materials. And in return, it provides only a tiny amount of electricity.
Although incineration threatens our health and environment, under industry pressure the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is planning to lift our 22-year old state moratorium on new incinerators. This would open the door for new facilities, putting our health at risk.
It's a fact that 90% of our trash could be reused, recycled, or composted. Much of that 90% is actually banned from disposal by state law. But weak compliance - and no enforcement - are allowing these materials to be burned or buried.
The reasons for our 22-year moratorium are still valid today. And now additional concerns are making headlines: depletion of energy, resources, and climate change. Rather than enforce bans to keep easily recyclable materials and yard waste out of the trash, the DEP seems to believe that we should pump more CO2 and more pollutants into the air we breathe.
Despite claims that the "new" methods of incineration are safer, the reality is that it’s a 19th century technology that continues to threaten our health and our environment, places toxins in the air, destroys recyclable materials, and worsens climate change.
The threat to public health posed by incinerator emissions is indisputable. The reasons for our moratorium are still valid today.
To take action on this issue, click on the link below: