Thursday, November 18, 2010

Did we kill the incinerator?

I won't hold my breath just yet, but there's a good possibility we have finally stopped Palmer Renewable Energy's biomass incinerator.

A quick recap: more than two years ago,  Palmer Renewable Energy made a proposal to Springfield City Council and the East Springfield Neighborhood Council about the wonderful benefits of their energy-producing incinerator.  Both councils fell for it-- city council liked the jobs and the the taxes; the neighborhood council liked the half million in "community benefits" PRE would contribute to the neighborhood.

It took about eight months for some of us in the community to find out about the plant, and, as soon as we educated ourselves about the pros and cons, we were against it.  Springfield's air quality is bad enough already, why make it worse?  Why have more kids with asthma and more adults with lung and heart disease? We formed a group, Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, and turned out more than 300 people at a public hearing to oppose the state giranting an air permit..  We got the state to agree to a health impact assessment for Springfield (still to happen).  We pushed the mayor, we pushed the city council, we held forums, we flyered the community, you name it, we did it.

A couple of months ago, PRE made a move that 1) I think they felt was necessary and 2) I think they thought would help get their plant approved: they decided not to burn primarily construction and demolition debris, but instead to burn wood trimmings.  I think they didn't want to wait 6 months for the state to conduct a study on the impact of burning C & D.

Instead, their decision opened doors for us.  PRE had to file an amended permit, which means we could submit comments on the Notice of Project Change to the state, and more than 400 of us did.  PRE has to go back before city council, which means we could let the new council know that people don't want this incinerator.  Through dint of our hard work, seven, possibly eight councilors have now expressed opposition to the plant and will be letting PRE know that when PRE returns to the council. .  And PRE had to go back to the East Springfield Neighborhood Council, where people in the neighborhood now know a lot more about the dangers of the plant than they did when the neighborhood council first voted approval.

When our group found out that PRE had to go back to East Springfield for approval, we asked Kathy Brown if we could get on the neighborhood council's agenda before PRE.  We are set to present our case on December 7.

Then we found out, from an East Springfield resident, that PRE was appearing before the neighborhood council this month, this past Tuesday!!  One of our members called Kathy Brown and was told that the East Springfield Neighborhood Council had already voted against PRE's new proposal.  And why hadn't they told us?  Five STIS members went to the meeting anyway, flyered the attendees and debated PRE executives and lawyer.

Now, it's been my understanding that this project can't move forward without the approval of the East Springfield Neighborhood Council.  So is the project dead?  Or will  PRE find a way around this vote?  I've put a call into City Soliciter Ed Pikula, but haven't heard back yet.  But is this the end for PRE?

Photo from Shawnrozzi's photostream at Flickr.


larasb said...

Hope so!!! Thanks for finding out who makes decisions in this convoluted process, then being there in numbers to make sure they do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

I have attended many of our East Springfield neighborhood council meetings and usually walk away shaking my head. They are a self serving board who most times works against the residents for the businesses who want in.

I don't understand why if they finally took a vote why they have not gone to the press to announce this. I am very disappointed with how secretive they remain and always hold meetings on such topic with no prior notice, it makes me wonder is that so hardly anyone shows up?

So Thank you to all the other groups who are staying on top of this!

Anonymous said...

I agree -the ESNC is a sham . A self-appointed president who is a dictator .

I just read that Ian Bowles decided NOT to require PRE to undergo an impact study - very disturbing news . I cannot fathom on what he based this decision.

Who else should we contact for help and to express our disapproval, no make that disgust , regarding this decision?