Volunteers sought for biomass advisory panel

GREENFIELD — Town Council’s Economic Development Committee hopes later this month to begin reviewing applications of people interested in joining a 10- to 12-member advisory committee that will help the town create an ordinance to regulate any future attempts to bring large-scale biomass wood burning or waste-to-energy power plants to town.

On April 17, 11 of the town’s 13-member council approved a biomass and waste-to-energy moratorium, which will be in effect until Sept. 15, 2014. Precinct 3 councilor Brickett Allis abstained, and then president, Precinct 5 Councilor David Singer, did not vote because he didn’t have to.

The moratorium will give the town time to create a new ordinance, and it means that anyone wishing to submit plans for either type of plant so that a project could start the permitting process with the town, will have to wait a little more than a year before doing so.

Even then, it is unclear what type of ordinance the town will have in place that might prevent those types of plants from coming to town at all.

Many of the 13 town councilors have said they hope to have an ordinance written, voted on, and in place before the moratorium expires.

The town currently has no local regulations in place to govern the size of or where a power plant of those types could be located, so its boards follow state regulations concerning those matters.

At-large Town Councilor Patrick Devlin, chairman of the EDC, said the council is looking for letters of interest from volunteers from Greenfield and the surrounding area to form an advisory committee of 10 to 12 members who will assist in developing the ordinance.

Devlin said he’d like to see a committee with members who have a wide range of views, experience and expertise who will consider such issues as health, air quality, the environment, wood harvesting and financial impacts of biomass or waste-to-energy plants.

The at-large councilor was very vocal in his opposition to the biomass wood-burning power plant that was proposed for Butternut Street in the industrial park.

During the council’s discussion of the moratorium, and just before it took its vote on it, Devlin said, “Residents have voiced their opposition to biomass,” and then he voted “yes” to the moratorium.

Devlin said a “careful and detailed study” on biomass and waste-to-energy burning needs to be done before the town can allow a facility like those mentioned to operate in Greenfield.

Earlier this month, the project that had been proposed for Butternut Street died when Matthew Wolfe of Madera Energy Inc. failed to meet the deadline set on March 15 by parties to an appeal of the town’s approval of the project.

Wolfe needed to submit new plans to the town by July 16 to begin the permitting process again for the Pioneer Renewable Energy Inc. 47-megawatt wood-burning biomass project, which was first brought to the town in 2009.

“We didn’t file, we’re not in a position to file, and frankly, we don’t have any plans to do anything in the short-term,” Wolfe said after the deadline passed.

Those wishing to serve on the advisory committee should submit a letter of interest and qualifications to the town clerk’s office by Aug. 21. The address is: Greenfield Town Clerk, 14 Court Square, Greenfield MA 01301. Also email to: towncouncil@townofgreenfield.org.

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