Toxics Action Center issues environmental leadership awards to local groups opposed to Springfield biomass plant

by Peter Goonan, The RepublicanMassLive.com
March 4th, 2012
Michaelann Bewsee of Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, left, an opponent of the proposed Palmer Renewable Energy biomass plant, and Frank Fitzgerald, right, a lawyer representing Palmer Renewable Energy. File photos | The Republican

A statewide environmental organization has issued awards to two grassroots groups who were recognized for their efforts to fight a proposed wood-burning plant in East Springfield.

The Toxics Action Center presented its "25 Years of Victories" awards on Saturday to Arise for Social Justice and Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield during the center's annual Environmental Action conference in Boston. The awards recognize outstanding environmental leadership, the group stated in a prepared release.

The awards occur as the biomass plant developer, Palmer Renewable Energy, and the opponents prepare for hearings scheduled March 22 and 23, to determine if the $150 million wood-burning project at Page Boulevard and Cadwell Drive should receive an air permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The hearings are before a state hearing officer in Springfield.

The local groups being honored and their leaders were recognized for their efforts to "protect the environment and the health of people in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley," a prepared release stated.

Sylvia Broude, the center's organizing director, said leaders in local efforts include Michaelann Bewsee, Jesse Lederman, LeeAnn and Stuart Warner, Patti McCauley, Bill Gibson and Ruben Santiago.

The local leaders "sprang into action and worked tirelessly to get the word out about the associated hazards (of the biomass plant)," Broude said.

The Toxics Action Center is an environmental community organizing group that describes its mission as helping communities to prevent or clean up pollution.

The City Council had granted a special permit for the biomass project in 2008, but revoked it last May, as urged by opponents. The developer obtained two local building permits for the first phase of the plant construction last year, but the Zoning Board of Appeals overturned the permits in January.

Frank P. Fitzgerald, a lawyer representing Palmer Renewable Energy has stated the company will file a court appeal seeking to uphold its building permits.

Opponents of the wood-to-energy plant say it would worsen pollution and harm public safety. Supporters say the plant would be built with state-of-the-art technology, meets state and federal environmental regulations and would not harm public health.


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