MASSACHUSETTS STATEHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
A DEP Official Cites “Societal Context” In Biomass Plant Ruling
Opponents of a long-planned biomass facility in East Springfield that would have burned wood to generate energy are applauding a new ruling upholding the state’s decision to revoke permits for the project.
The Massachusetts Office of Appeals and Dispute Resolution on Monday upheld an April 2021 Department of Environmental Protection decision to revoke an air permit issued in 2012 for the Palmer Renewable Energy Facility.
In Monday’s ruling, Stephanie Cooper, MassDEP’s deputy commissioner for policy and planning, wrote that she was certain that the agency “exercised its authority and discretion” in revoking the air permit and added that “more recent societal context and heightened focus on Environmental Justice are relevant to this matter,” citing requirements under a 2021 climate law and updated executive branch environmental justice policies.
“MassDEP has changed its processes for reviewing these types of permit applications, to ensure both that people living in Environmental Justice communities have a genuine opportunity to participate in decision-making impacting their health and environment, and that the environmental burdens on these communities are considered,” Cooper wrote. “Any future permit application seeking approval of construction and operation of the proposed Facility must be evaluated with the benefit of enhanced public engagement and the best available current scientific and public health information.”
The Conservation Law Foundation celebrated the decision, along with Sen. Ed Markey and Springfield officials. “This is a story of perseverance. It’s been a decade of twists and turns, but our resolve never wavered,” said Springfield City Councilor Michael Fenton. CLF staff attorney Johannes Epke said, “Burning wood for electricity is a bad idea to begin with and building a biomass plant in a residential neighborhood is just evil.”
Added Markey: “Our communities are not sacrifice zones for polluting projects, and I am glad that our Springfield families will not have to face the burden of the dangerous Palmer plant.”
Palmer Renewable Energy LLC has seven business days from the postmark date of this week’s decision to file a motion for reconsideration of the decision. – Michael P. Norton/SHNS