Reposted from Rutland Herald.
SPRINGFIELD — Concerns about air pollution from the proposed 37-megawatt wood-fired power plant and the tractor trailers bringing woodchips to the North Springfield site dominated a public hearing Wednesday night.
The draft air pollution control permit, which would be issued by the Agency of Natural Resources Division of Air Pollution Control, infuriated dozens of North Springfield residents who took turns condemning the project, saying it would destroy the quality of the air they breathe, increase illness and destroy property values.
“We are guinea pigs,” said lifelong resident Jean Willard, whose family farm was long ago converted to the North Springfield Industrial Park, where the proposed biomass plant would be located.
After the hearing at Springfield High School, Richard Valentinetti, director of the Agency of Natural Resources’ air pollution control division, said the state would take a second look at the permit because of concerns raised by residents.
Valentinetti said the division would look at the air emissions from the 120 daily tractor trailer trips that the woodchip plant would generate.
“We have to go back and look at some of the issues,” he said, adding that concerns about the impact on American bald eagles nesting in the nearby North Springfield Flood Control Dam and Stoughton Pond would be researched.
About four dozen people attended the hearing. Representatives from the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project, a joint project of Winstanley Enterprises and Weston Solutions, listened but were not allowed to comment or answer questions, said Dan Ingold, a project engineer.
Only one person spoke publicly in support of the project — Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., who has been working with Adam Winstanley to make the project a reality for several years.
But about 18 people — almost all of them North Springfield residents — said their quality of life was being sacrificed for 20 full-time jobs.
Willard, a former member of the Springfield Select Board and School Board, received the longest applause, when she said she was raising concerns on behalf of her children and grandchildren.
Many people, including members of her family, have asthma, she said, and the emissions — which include a big jump in particulates — would make that worse.
The area is a natural amphitheater, she said, and would hold in the pollution and contamination.
There are 67 pollutants listed in the draft permit, she said, with 35 above action levels.
“The residents of North Springfield are being used as guinea pigs to see if biomass is feasible,” she said. “I have no confidence in this biomass company. I cannot see risking the health of the people and destroying the community,” she added.
Walter Dodd said that because of the nearby Hartness State Airport, the stack from the biomass plant would be limited to 140 feet because of concerns by the Federal Aviation Administration. A higher stack would disperse the pollutants in a wider area, he said.
Maggie Kelly, a member of NoSAG, the local activist group opposed to the project, questioned the three state officials about who would be enforcing the permit conditions, noting a recent story in The Wall Street Journal that showed widespread permit violations with biomass plants across the country.
“Who will be controlling this?” Kelly asked, again to applause.
Kerstin Burlingame of North Springfield, who said she moved to Vermont seven years ago from Seattle, said that Vermont has a long history of landmark environmental development.
“George Marsh would probably be rolling over in his grave,” she said, referring to George Perkins Marsh, a Woodstock resident in the 1800s, who is considered the father of the modern environmental movement, and whose home is now part of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock.
Burlingame also criticized the energy efficiency of the woodchip plant. “I wouldn’t buy a refrigerator if it said 30 percent,” she said.
Burlingame said if the plant was built, she “would not hesitate” to move.
Valentinetti said the state would respond to the concerns raised by the 18 people who spoke.