Biomass language needs more attention
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | December 07,2012
SPRINGFIELD — The process of rewriting the proposed town plan to address the issue of biomass energy is ongoing.
The Springfield Planning Commission met Wednesday and heard from four North Springfield residents about language concerns in the proposed town plan.
Bob Kischko, chairman of North Springfield Action Group, or NoSAG, a citizens group opposed to the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project, said the group had a “good dialogue” with the planning commission.
“They are rewriting the section about biomass,” said Kischko. “It needs to be strengthened.”
Town Zoning Administrator William Kearns said he was again going to consult with Tom Kennedy, executive director of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, about the language.
Kearns said the commission is concerned about what can be said in a town plan, and is aware that the regulation of energy-generating facilities is the sole responsibility of the Public Service Board under state law.
Kearns said state law was revised in 2005, going into effect in 2007, and removed any local permitting for energy projects. Before that, an energy project had to go through a local site review, touching on issues such as setbacks and traffic, he said. The town and the planning commission by law are parties to the PSB process.
Kischko said the proposed town plan would not affect the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project since the town plan that was on the books at the time of its application to the state applies. He said the language in the current plan is good, the problem is in the proposed changes.
In fact, the initial language dealing with biomass stated that sewage sludge or garbage could be burned in a biomass plant, something that brought a large crowd out at a meeting last month.
Kischko and resident Walter Dodd want the town plan to reflect the pluses and minuses of biomass adverse effects on water, air and traffic.
“This is for the future. It has nothing to do with the current process,” said Kischko. “The town plan adopted in 2009 with changes is in effect. There’s some pretty decent language in there.”
Kearns said he believed the commission was going to address the group’s concerns. He also said that any biomass plant had to meet both state and federal environmental standards on air and water.
He said the town was concerned that the town plan might be viewed as trying to infringe on the role of the Public Service Board in reviewing a power plant.
Hearings on the proposed 35-megawatt biomass plant will be held in February before the Public Service Board.
Kearns said he believed it wouldn’t be until February when the planning commission can take up the revised language and hold a formal public hearing on the new town plan.