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Court rules construction permits have expired for Springfield biomass project

The entrance to Palmer Paving Corporation's site in Springfield, Massachusetts,  where the Palmer Renewable Energy Company planned to build a wood-burning biomass plant.
Elizabeth Román
The entrance to Palmer Paving Corporation's site in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the Palmer Renewable Energy Company planned to build a wood-burning biomass plant.

A proposed biomass power plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, has experienced another setback.

The Massachusetts Land Court has ruled construction permits for the project have expired, affirming a decision by the Springfield Zoning Board of Appeals in 2021. The developer of the project, Palmer Renewable Energy, had argued since construction work at the site had begun, the permits were still valid.

Biomass plants burn wood, which have led to air quality concerns among opponents and environmental activists. One of them, is city council president Jesse Lederman.

"And this is just the latest in a series of rulings that are really once again showing the days of polluters being rubber stamped in Springfield are over," he said.

The state previously pulled the proposal's air permit. That decision is being appealed and is expected to be taken up in March. And a state clean energy law from last year removed financial incentives for biomass plants.

Lederman said the opposition to the project has been broad and effective.

"Working together with community advocates, residents and legal counsel, we really have been able to beat back this polluter and hopefully continue to protect the people of Springfield," he said.

An attorney for Palmer Renewable, Thomas Mackie, said Tuesday his clients are considering whether to appeal the latest decision and are “very disappointed” by the decision on the construction permit.

The ZBA originally issued the construction permit in 2011 but pulled the permit a decade later following a push by the Springfield City Council. The council is being represented by the Conservation Law Foundation in the case.

“Inefficient biomass plants like the one proposed here don’t make sense anywhere in 2023, and especially not in a community in Springfield already overburdened by air pollution,” said attorney Johannes Epke, an attorney from the foundation.

The would-be site of the plant, first proposed in 2008, is off Paige Boulevard in the city’s East Springfield neighborhood.

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