[NEWS] Health Commissioner Will Not Block Springfield, MA Biomass Facility
– by Dan Glaun, August 18, 2016, Springfield Republican
Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris will not initiate site assignment proceedings against the proposed East Springfield biomass plant, clearing a path for a project that has survived court challenges, city council opposition and protest from neighborhood organizers who describe the plant as a menace to public health.
Caulton-Harris wrote that opponents did not present convincing evidence that the plant would fail to meet EPA and MassDEP standards, and also that those standards are sufficient to protect residents.
“It is therefore decided that a site assignment hearing shall not be ordered for the project at this time,” Caulton-Harris wrote.
And though the city’s advisory Public Health Council had recommended site assignment by a six to one margin, Caulton-Harris’ decision said their vote did not count. Eight votes are needed for a legal quorum on the 15-seat board, she wrote — a tall order, given that the council only had nine active members as of its May 2016 meeting, including Caulton-Harris herself.
Jesse Lederman, a spokesman for the coalition of community groups that opposed the plant, said opponents were considering their legal options and could file suit against the city.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Commissioner has chosen not to act in the best interest of the residents of the City of Springfield and simply hold this hearing despite the many calls by immediate abutters of the proposed incinerator, the Springfield City Council, and the decision issued by the Springfield Public Health Council, which recommended a Site Assignment Hearing in June,” Lederman said in a statement.
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