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Committee next step for biomass

GREENFIELD — At-large Town Councilor Patrick Devlin, who supported the recent moratorium placed on large-scale biomass wood-burning and waste-to-energy facilities, would like to see a committee formed and doing research on the matters within a month so that it can come back to the town with suggestions for possible new ordinances before the moratorium ends in September 2014.

“I’m not sure what the committee is going to look like,” said Devlin. “I’d like to see some of the experts right here in our community join in and lend a hand to craft something.”

Devlin said he plans to attend the Democracy School that Greening Greenfield is sponsoring and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit public interest law firm that does public education and outreach and teaches people how to draft ordinances and bylaws, will teach in early May.

“I’m hoping to be a part of the committee, so I’d like to see it form after I attended the school,” he said. “Then, I’ll have a better understanding of where we are headed.”

Town Council President David Singer (Precinct 5) said he would be happy to put the issue on the next chairs committee meeting on May 6.

“I imagine two groups working on this,” said Singer. “I would like to see the Planning Board write an ordinance that it would send the council, and I would also like to see the new committee do the same.”

Singer said he would not want a citizens group to draft an ordinance, though he said he would like to see citizens sit on the committee.

Singer said he would also like to see the town’s Sustainability Advisory Committee become involved.

Janet Sinclair, a Shelburne Falls resident who graduated from Greenfield High School, penned the citizens petition that asked for the 17-month moratorium. She also led the opposition to the proposed wood-burning power plant proposed for the I-91 Industrial Park. That plant’s Zoning Board of Appeals approval was challenged in court and is now headed back to the zoning board for reconsideration.

Sinclair said she believes either the Town Council or residents could form the committee. She said she would prefer to see a committee that adheres to Open Meeting Laws so that “a variety of voices” can be heard through the process.

“I suggested to Patrick that the council or one of its subcommittees recruit members for the advisory committee,” she said. “I believe it should be a group that provides numerous points of view. The committee should work for the town, just like we did and the council does.”

It is not yet clear whether the moratorium will affect the 47-megawatt biomass plant planned for Butternut Street in the industrial park, though Sinclair now says she hopes it will. Before the moratorium was passed she said she didn’t think the temporary ban would affect the proposed wood-burning power plant.

Eleven of the 13 town councilors voted to pass the moratorium. Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis abstained and Singer did not vote. As president, he doesn’t vote unless he has to break a tie.

Greenfield is the first town in Franklin County to have a moratorium on biomass and waste-to-energy facilities.

Mayor William Martin said the moratorium is a good thing, because it will give the town the tools it needs to review all of the information available about biomass.

We tried to write a bylaw that would prevent the large biomass plant from getting a buiding permit, but were told by numerous zoning experts that Mr. WOlfe's project would not be effected by that effort. Mr. Wolfe must submit ammendents to his permit or apply for a new one by mid-July. The only sure way to stop this plant from being built is for the permit to be denied by the ZBA. If the ZBA says "yes" again, we will have to go though an expensive legal battle in court. I hope that the residents of Greenfield and the surrounding towns continue to pay attention as this all unfolds and continue to lend support to our efforts.

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