Biomass: Regional commission won’t commit
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | May 01,2013
FAIR HAVEN — Town officials wanted to know why the Rutland Regional Planning Commission has not publicly supported the proposed Beaver Wood biomass project — and they got an answer.
Kristen Hughes, executive director of the commission, said RRPC does not take a formal position on a project until it has filed for the Act 250 land-use and development permit. He said once an application is filed, the commission will review it and take a position.
“We would look at all the pros and cons (of a project),” Hughes told the Select Board at its meeting Monday. “We would not say yes or no.”
He said though RRPC has had conversations with developers Beaver Wood Energy about the project and are willing to talk about its possible implications for the county’s energy-generation projects.
He added that the company has not filed for an Act 250 permit.
“They are early in the application process,” Hughes said.
Town Manager Herbert Durfee, who has extensive experience in regional development, said Monday that if Beaver Wood files an application, RRPC has automatic party status and will wield a certain amount of influence with the District 1 Environmental Commission.
Hughes was at the Fair Haven meeting to introduce himself to town officials and provide an update on some of the work RRPC is doing for the county.
He said the regional commission is in the process of updating and developing a comprehensive, county-wide plan that includes its mission to promote renewable energy projects in the region.
Biomass is included, he said, but will not be the only one discussed.
“The response to energy needs is going to be a balanced blend of all energy sources,” Hughes said. “Biomass is good in this part of the state because of its proximity to the fuel source ... but it’s not going to be the only source.”
Beaver Wood Energy has proposed a 29.5-megawatt, wood-fueled biomass plant and pellet-manufacturing facility off Route 4 in Fair Haven. Earlier this year, the company entered into an agreement with a local hydroponic vegetable producer to build a 10-acre greenhouse complex on the property.
The estimated cost is more than $260 million and could bring up to 300 jobs to Rutland County.
Project developers have filed an application to the state Public Service Board for a Section 248 permit, but the process stalled in April 2011 after the board determined it did not have jurisdiction over the manufacturing facility; it falls under Act 250.
Fair Haven officials have supported the project and have sought backing from the regional commission.