Feds To Hold Hearing on Polluting Power Plant

On August 13 at 7 p.m. in Russell, Mass. – about a 30 minute drive from Northampton - the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing about a plan by a Connecticut corporation that wants to build polluting power plants in Greenfield, Russell, Palmer, Fitchburg and Pittsfield.

Russell Biomass Corporation says it wants to discharge hot, contaminated effluent into the Westfield River, a federally-designated "wild and scenic river" that is home to endangered Atlantic salmon.

The hearing will be at the Russell Elementary School auditorium: 155 Highland Avenue.

According to the Greenfield-based Connecticut River Watershed Council, "The plant is aiming to use wet cooling technology, and will withdraw up to 885,000 gallons of Westfield River water daily to cool its steam turbines. Only 15 percent of the withdrawn water will be returned to the river."

Biomass burning qualifies as a "renewable" technology under the Massachusetts Green Communities Act. As such, biomass plants are eligible for taxpayer and ratepayer-funded incentives, including the generation of renewable energy credits. These credits must be purchased by electricity retailers to meet state-mandated renewable energy quotas.

"Polluting a wild and scenic river with heated effluent from a biomass incinerator is unacceptable and violates the federal Clean Water Act and Massachusetts water quality standards," said Margaret Sheehan, a lawyer at

According to the EPA, "All persons, including applicants, who believe any condition of this draft permit is inappropriate, must raise all issues and submit all available arguments and all supporting material for their arguments in full by August 18 to:

1 Congress St.
Suite 1100
Boston, MA. 02114"

More than 250 people turned out for a public hearing about the Connecticut company’s proposed polluting power plant in Greenfield on June 25. City officials allowed only about 12 people to speak, though many more members of the public wanted to speak. Of those who spoke, only one was in favor of the proposal.

On June 15, more than 400 people turned out for the first public hearing about the power plant, also in Greenfield. The vast majority of speakers at that hearing opposed the facility. Four grassroots environmental groups in the Valley are fighting the plants.

"This is a story of when green is not really green,” said Jana Chicoine, a member of Concerned Citizens of Russell, Mass. www.concernedcitizensofrussell.org. “These facilities are being sold as clean energy by the incinerator industry.” That’s false advertising, she said.

The Hampshire Gazette newspaper reported that the proposed electric plants would release 50 percent more carbon dioxide per kilowatt of electricity generated than a coal plant would.

The other groups are the Toxics Action Center www.toxicsaction.org and the Rushing Rivers Institute www.rushingrivers.org, both based in Amherst, and the Westfield State College chapter of MASSPIRG www.masspirg.org.

Studies by the Natural Resources Defense Council www.nrdc.org and others show that energy efficiency programs are the most cost-effective way to reduce pollution and create jobs, compared to any kind of power generation. Electricity is increasingly being generated by windmills, solar panels and small-scale "micro-hydro" dams.


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