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Worgaftik /My Turn: Community takes action

Tim Blagg’s column of Aug. 5 was a study in how a victory of community residents gets distorted into the work of disgruntled malcontents.

For the record, when Matt Wolfe first brought the idea of a biomass plant to Greenfield, it looked like a pretty good idea to me. As I and others learned more, thousands of us voted against it in the only vote we had. We voted to stop the use of municipal waste water for cooling. All the regulations stated that if Matt Wolfe filled in the required forms correctly, we, as a community, had no right to say no. The Zoning Board was to say where a biomass plant could or could not be sited, but it could not say that the plant could not be built. So, we said “no” on the only vote we had.

The fight against the biomass plant was not the work of a few people who did not want to view a smokestack from their backyards. This effort was about preventing additional cases of asthma caused by particulate emissions in a valley. It was a vote that weighed trading the health of our children against the 25 permanent jobs that this plant would create. The Burlington, Vt., plant that you so highly touted is not in a valley. The conditions regarding emissions are very different.

It was a fight against public underwriting of a questionable corporate project. Greenfield taxpayers were going to be responsible for the repair and maintenance of the roads that scores of heavy trucks would use daily to bring wood to the biomass plant. Greenfield taxpayers would be responsible for the maintenance of the pipeline carrying the waste water to the plant and back, even though the only reason for that pipeline was the biomass plant. Matt Wolfe was looking for a tax break from the town for this massive plant. So whatever the plant was going to pay for the use of the waste water (was it $1 million a year?) would have been more than taken up by the tax break that was being requested.

In terms of the environment, this plant was only 25 percent efficient. When the state recognized this issue, they demanded considerably higher efficiency rates for a biomass plant to be given tax credits. Your hope for co-generation for greenhouses was just that — a hope. That idea was presented to Matt Wolfe early in the discussion of the plant. He did not demonstrate that he was going to work to make that or any other co-generation project happen.

The electricity to be generated by the biomass plant would have been far more expensive than that created through the burning of natural gas. A discussion of the fracturing of shale for natural gas is not for this letter. Let us just say that it is highly likely that at the very moment that this biomass plant was to be completed, it would have become economically unfeasible … and likely abandoned. And Greenfield would have been stuck with another industrial mess to clean up.

It seems that whenever residents demand accountability from corporations, they are accused of NIMBY. Whenever corporations ask for the rights to our air and water and demand that we foot a significant portion of the bill, that is praised. As community residents, we have a right to demand that the sacrifices which citizens make for a corporate expansion of whatever type bring significant benefit to the community. The biomass plant did not meet that test.

Susan Worgaftik is a Greenfield resident.

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