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City council revokes Massachusetts biomass plant permit

By Anna Austin | May 24, 2011

The Springfield (Mass.) City Council has revoked the permit it granted Palmer Renewable Energy to build a 35-megawatt biomass power plant, in a 2-9 vote on Monday.

The zoning permit was granted by the city council in 2008. Since then, the company has spent millions of dollars moving forward with the project, achieving all but one of the permits necessary to construct the plant—its final air quality permit from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Revocation of the permit follows the release of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ renewable portfolio standard (RPS) qualifications, which have held up several biomass power projects in the state and placed tougher requirements and limitations on biomass power.  Despite the unfavorable biomass changes in the RPS policy, Palmer was planning on complying with the new rules to move forward.

The $150 million facility would bring about 200 construction jobs to the city, and was scheduled for completion in July of 2013. It would consume about 1,200 tons of wood chips per day, though the original fuel for the plant was to be construction and demolition debris. One argument being posed by opponents of the plant is that the city had the right to revoke the permit because of the change of fuel, as well as the number of trucks that would be needed to haul fuel to the plant (six additional daily deliveries).

However, the fuel switch was made over six months ago, as the company filed a notice of project change with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in October of last year.

While a Palmer Renewable Energy official could not be immediately reached for comment, a local newspaper reported that the city councilors said that they expected a lawsuit, as the company has said in the past it would take legal action if the permit was revoked.