Monday, November 16, 2009

Seven reasons to oppose a toxic incinerator in Springfield.

Palmer Renewable Energy’s proposal to build an electricity-generating biomass plant in Springfield, Massachusetts is moving very quickly, now—the developers need two more permits and then they get the green light.

I myself refuse to call PRE’s proposal a biomass plant: it’s a construction and demolition wood-burning incinerator that will provide a few jobs, create a little electricity, and degrade and pollute our community.  What a trade-off!

Some of us, in a new group called Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, have been working very hard to stop PRE from going ahead.  We need a lot more help because time is so short.  But I will say that I haven’t talked to a single person who, once he or she knows about the plant, is in favor of it, although I’m sure there are some, especially where potential financial benefits may exist—a job, for example, or a neighborhood improvement project.  Well, times are tough and I can’t blame them.  They’re not the one who will be making the big bucks from this project.

The Springfield Public Health Council is concerned enough about the health threats of this incinerator to dedicate their next meeting, this Wednesday, November 18, to hearing concerns. The meeting will start at 6 pm. at the Pine Point Citizens Council, 335 Berkshire Ave.  It’s an open meeting and I hope that people will take this opportunity to learn more .

Then, on Wednesday, December 2nd, the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection will be holding a public hearing on whether to grant PRE an air permit.  This is folks’ chance to hear what PRE has to say, to hear the concerns of Springfield’s residents, and to ask questions.  The meeting starts at 7 pm. at  Kennedy Middle School, 1385 Berkshire Ave.

Air is no respecter of town and county borders.  Here are seven reasons residents of the Pioneer Valley should be against PRE’s proposal.

  1. WE’RE HEALTH-STRESSED ENOUGH ALREADY.  We live in the Pioneer Valley, where air is often trapped like an inverted bowl-- and PRE’s proposed incinerator is only one of five being planned for Western Mass.
 Almost half the population of Hampden County is already considered at risk from the effects of air pollution. Our childhood asthma rate is 50% higher than the state average.  The American Lung Association gives our county an F based on smog and short and year round levels of fine particulate matter (FPM), of which there are no “safe” levels.  Why would we want to make things worse than they already are?

Our children have blood lead levels about twice the state average; PRE’s incinerator will send another ton of lead into the air. Chromium, mercury, dioxin, arsenic, nickel, cadmium, manganese, antimony, beryllium, cobalt, selenium will also be emitted by this plant, all within “safe” levels.  Exposure to pollutants is linked not only to poor health and sometimes fatalities but also to a decline in I.Q.

  1. THE REGULATIONS DON’T PROTECT US.  Somehow the projected emission levels came in just below the threshold that would have required a full environmental impact review by the state Department of Environmental Protection.  Even assuming that the state regulations that apply to this plant can be met, each of the five wood-burning plants proposed for Western Mass. is judged separately—combined impacts are not taken into account.  Emissions from the machines that will run the plant and emissions from the 160 trucks delivering 900 tons of fuel each day aren’t counted in emission totals, either.
 We’re guinea pigs for the rest of the state.

  1. THE PLANT EMISSIONS MONITORING SYSTEM IS FULL OF HOLES. PRE’s fuel will come from third parties that want to sell their fuel and have every incentive to bend the rules.  No one will know on any given day what is being burned; there’s no stack monitoring of toxins and no real-time third-party testing of what comes out of the smokestack.
  1. THE GOVERNMENT HAS NOT BEEN PLAYING FAIR WITH US.  Springfield’s Planning Dept. presented PRE’s proposal to City Council as a “recycling plant” when PRE sought a zone change.  The state defined Springfield as an “Environmental Justice Community” and then didn’t follow its own guidelines for informing the public so we could have real and timely input. 

  1. PROPERTY VALUES AND OUR QUALITY OF LIFE WILL DECLINE.  More trucks, more traffic, more pollution, more noise and a smokestack as high as the city’s landmark Campanile, will, as in other communities lead to a decline in property values estimated by some realtors as up to 20%.          
  1. THE PLANT IS A WASTE OF TAXPAYERS’ MONEY.  Without huge state and federal subsidies, this plant would not have been feasible.  All five proposed plants will meet only 1% of the state’s energy needs.  If we subsidized weatherization and conservation instead, we could reduce our need for energy by far more than 1%.
  1. BURNING WOOD FOR FUEL TAKES US BACK TO THE CAVEMAN DAYS.  We banned new incinerators in Massachusetts 20 years ago and with good reason.  Burning wood creates pollution! Trees don’t grow as fast as we can burn them, so they can’t be carbon-neutral. The planet is in trouble and wood-burning incinerators will only make things worse.
 It’s not too late to make a difference.  You can join our group.  (Check out our website at Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield.) You can pass out flyers.  You can let our elected officials know how you feel.  Start by calling your new ward councilors; some are already opposed.  Call your state senators and representative.  Then make three more calls: to Gov. Deval Patrick at 888-870-7770, DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt at 617-292-5500, and Secretary Ian Bowles of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs at 617-626-1000.  Tell them: no toxic incinerators in Springfield—or anywhere else in Massachusetts!


Anonymous said...

Hi Michaelann,

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Please email me if so:


Paddy J. said...

In addition, Michaelann, yiu have to consider that with the rush to build these things -- 5 in the Pioneer Valley, who knows how many in Mass, NE, US? -- has anyone thought exactly where they are going to get all the wood to keep the boilers burning?
Are they going to eventually clear cut the mountains for the lumber like they did 100 years ago?
These damn things just seem so short-sighted.