Springfield city councilors seek cease and desist order on long-stalled biomass project (MassLive)


Read the original MassLive story from Pete Goonan here.


SPRINGFIELD — Twelve of 13 city councilors have asked the building commissioner to issue a cease and desist order on a proposed biomass wood-burning energy plant in East Springfield, continuing a battle against the project that began more than a decade ago.

“It is our analysis that the building permit for this project has expired,” At-Large Councilor Jesse Lederman said in a news release. “The Springfield Zoning Ordinance now requires a special permit from the City Council, which it does not possess.”


The only city councilor who did not sign the letter to Desilets was Sean Curran.


Building Commissioner Steven Desilets said in July that the developer, Palmer Renewable Energy, continues to have a valid building permit for the project at 1000 Page Blvd., although it has been on hold more than a decade through multiple court challenges.


On Wednesday, Desilets said he had not yet seen the council’s letter and declined comment.


Palmer Renewable Energy has done some work, including demolition of the former Bassett Printers building on a section of the property at 400 Cadwell Drive, officials said. The company received a separate demolition permit for that work.


The councilors’ letter to Desilets states the building permit for the biomass project, approved by the city building department and reinstated by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, “has unquestionably expired.” The council granted the special permit 12 years ago.


“Substantial construction under the building permit for the project has not occurred,” the council letter said.


Desilets in July stated that some improvements had occurred on the site, and that a substantial investment had been made by the developer. The project was described as a $150 million, 35-megawatt plant to convert wood to energy.


“The permit still stands,” Desilets said at the time.


The councilors and other opponents of the biomass project say it will worsen air pollution and harm public health. The developers and other supporters say that a state-of-the-art biomass project is planned that would not worsen pollution or harm public health.


Separately, there is a petition drive that opposes state legislation that, if passed, might aid the biomass project, said Lederman and other signers.


The petition opposes language in a House climate bill that defines a “commercial grade wood-burning biomass as ‘non-carbon emitting sources of energy,’ incentivizing the purchase of energy from such incinerators under the premise of renewable energy,” Lederman said.

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