Rutland Herald: Springfield unveils understanding with biomass developer

Jun 18, 2013 No Comments by

Reposted from the Rutland Herald. June 18, 2013.

SPRINGFIELD — Saying they were trying to control the things they could control with the proposed North Springfield biomass plant, the Springfield Select Board unveiled a proposed memorandum of understanding with the project developer Monday.

About four dozen residents were at the special meeting at Springfield High School called to discuss the memorandum, which calls for the developer, in conjunction with the town, to put in a new road from Route 10 to the North Springfield Industrial Park in an effort to get truck traffic off Main Street and County Road in North Springfield.

The board took pains to say they were not endorsing the controversial project, but trying to get promises put in writing in the event the project does get final state approval.

The $3 million road project would largely be offset by a tax stabilization agreement with the project, according to the MOU. In addition, the town would receive $1.5 million in advance to help plan the new, “upgraded” road, the MOU said.

But the final payment would be tied to negotiations for a tax stabilization agreement.

Kristi Morris, chairman of the Select Board, said the MOU did not mean the town endorsed the controversial project, but that it was an attempt to get in writing the promises the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project has made.

“Unfortunately we’re limited in what we can do,” said Select Board member Michael Knoras.

Under state law, energy generation projects are only permitted by the Public Service Board, and do not even require a local zoning permit.

Springfield has no say in the project’s air quality permit, which it has already received from the Agency of Natural Resources. Two other key permits are pending: the Section 248 permit, or certificate of public good from the Public Service Board, and a water discharge permit.

Other key issues in the MOU will be a thermal heat loop that would extend down Main Street in North Springfield to the post office, which would provide free hot water for residents who want to tap into it.

Another provision is the woodstove swap, a $350,000 project to try and change many older woodstoves to reduce the amount of particulate emitted into the air in North Springfield.

Morris said the attorneys for the developer had originally proposed language in the MOU which would have said the town endorsed the project, but that the town insisted that such language be removed.

Not one person — aside from the Select Board — spoke in favor of the project. Many of the people at the hearing are members of NoSAG, the North Springfield Action Group, which is opposed to the project.

Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda said that the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission was negotiating its own MOU with the developers on behalf of other Windsor County towns that could be affected by increased truck traffic from the plant, particularly Chester and Weathersfield.

One resident of North Springfield, Ted Chivers, urged the board not to enter into a tax stabilization agreement with North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project, noting it wasn’t “clean” industry and it wouldn’t create many jobs.

Another resident, Jean Willard, said she was concerned about the chemicals that the biomass plant would use in its cooling system, which it plans on discharging back into the ground at the plant.

Willard said that disclosing what those chemicals are should be a requirement of the MOU, since project experts have refused to say what chemicals will be used in the cooling system.

Willard said any chemicals injected into the North Springfield aquifer could potentially affect the town’s public drinking water supply, since much of it drains into the Chapman and Gilcrist well system in North Springfield.

While residents liked the idea of getting truck traffic off Main Street and County Road, one man said that creating a new road would create headaches for him since the new road would be next to his home.

One resident, Michael Gintof, asked the board how they individually stood on the project. But no member of the board took him up on his request.

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