Biomass plant gets air permit
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | April 20,2013
NORTH SPRINGFIELD — The proposed 35-megawatt North Springfield wood-fired power plant received an air permit from the state Friday, which the state said would include state-of-the-art pollution control equipment.
Richard Valentinetti, chief of the air pollution control division, said Friday the permit incorporated the newest technology.
“It’s a very stringent permit, we think, in terms of the emissions coming out of the plant,” Valentinetti said.
“We use the phrase ‘best available control technology,’” Valentinetti said.
According to the permit, the biomass plant is expected to exceed the action level of 35 different hazardous air contaminants, and thus is subject to further state review.
Neither the developers of the proposed North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project nor the leaders of the North Springfield Action Group, which opposes the plant, returned requests for comment on the air permit. The project is still waiting on a decision from the Public Service Board on the project’s all-important certificate of public good.
NoSAG leaders in particular had voiced strong concern about the effect of the emissions coming out of the plant on the North Springfield neighborhood.
Valentinetti said the state tried to take into consideration the dozens of comments that area residents made during a public hearing on the proposed air permit last summer, but he said that by law the state must issue a permit unless there is a compelling reason not to.
Valentinetti said the state had included residents’ concerns about the bowl-like effect, which they said would trap emissions in the region, as well as air quality modeling issues, in the permit, which came out in draft form several months ago.
“We made a lot of changes,” Valentinetti said.
Valentinetti said the North Springfield permit was similar — with some changes — to the air permit granted to the proposed Beaverwood biomass plant in Fair Haven.
While Beaverwood has an air permit, it has withdrawn its overall permit.
Valentinetti noted that the North Springfield project has several other state concerns it must face, including recent concerns raised by the Department of Forestry that the wood-fired plant was not truly sustainable.
North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project has applied for a permit under Section 248 of state utility law. Earlier this month, the first round of hearings concluded, with project developers saying they hoped to have a permit in hand by June.
According to the permit, it can be appealed to the Vermont Environmental Court, but the appeal must be filed within 30 days.