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Editorial: Breathe easier

Those who saw little good coming from a proposed wood-burning energy plant in Greenfield can breathe easier now.

Last week, a deadline for amending the special permit application for the Pioneer Renewable Energy biomass electric generator came and went, leading opponents of the plant to petition Franklin County Superior Court for a final judgment that will annul the permit granted four years ago.

Truth be told, though, this controversial project was dead long before this.

We have long thought that the date of death for the project of Matthew Wolfe, the principal for Madera Energy, came about roughly two years ago when the state unveiled its revised regulations for qualifying for Renewable Energy Credits under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Those new standards, finalized in 2012, require all wood-burning biomass plants to generate power at minimum 50 percent efficiency to receive one half of a renewable energy credit (REC), and 60 percent efficiency to receive one full REC. Before these revisions to the regulations, plants were required to operate at 25 percent efficiency.

“The regs they came out with would not allow for the project to qualify for RECs in Massachusetts. It’s been pretty clear all along that without those RECs, this project doesn’t move forward. In order to qualify, there would have to be changes to the project, if the project could qualify at all,” Wolfe said. “In order for there to be changes, we would have to go before the different permitting agencies with something different than what was originally considered.”

When did Wolfe come to this realization is the real question here.

And while Madera Energy still has the option on the I-91 Industrial Park property, that, too, may just be a matter of time.

Or, perhaps, Wolfe’s energy development firm would be interested in building an anaerobic digestion operation there. As the state has recently announced, it is making money available for building these facilities that take food waste and turn it into energy. It’s just a thought.

Truth be told, Mr. Wolfe wanted to hang on to his special permit, that could be amended over and over again, were the ZBA willing to allow it, for as long as he could. He was hoping for four more years of figuring out what he could do to recover from the beating that biomass was receiving from the citizen efforts to change the state regulations, as well as using every avenue possible to shut down the biomass plans in Springfield, Russell and Greenfield. There is no reason to think the ZBA would not have rubber stamped anything Mr. Wolfe brought forward, sadly enough. In Springfield, the project is planning to go forward without part of the big public handout. In Russell , the developers had the courtesy to withdraw their special permit because the handout was being taken away. Mr. Wolfe either couldn't conjure up the basic courtesy to the town and announce his departure, or he was fact doing what we were told he was doing. Hoping that in the next four years, while his permit was still viable, he would be able to parlay it into something that could make money for him. Mr. Wolfe, with his comments is trying to save face. Why can't the Recorder acknowledge that the local citizens did everyone a big favor, worked tirelessly, and outmaneuvered Mr. Wolfe in the final hour.

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