State Poised to Increase Air Pollution in Springfield

When the dust settles from the public air permit hearing on the new tree-burning Palmer Renewable Energy (PRE) power plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, the facts on the ground will not have changed at all.

Springfield will still have some of the most polluted air in New England. Hampden country will still be out of compliance with pollution standards for ozone. Children at the elementary schools closest to the facility will still suffer asthma at twice the state average. Twice as many of these same children will have significantly elevated blood lead levels. And Springfield’s 2009 state record for deadly particle pollution, registered at the Main Street monitoring station, will still stand. 

That’s life on the ground in Springfield if they don’t build the heavily polluting PRE plant.  If they do build it, every one of these measures will get worse.

You really have to wonder what state regulators are thinking if they approve this monster. The permitted pollution levels for several critical pollutants at the PRE plant, including lethal particle pollution, are worse than the measured pollution levels at the nearby coal-fired Mt Tom power plant. And Mt Tom is producing at least four time times as much electricity as PRE ever will.

Would the DEP approve a new coal burning power plant in downtown Springfield? We sure hope not, but by some critical measures PRE is worse. Why is it getting a pass? The most likely reason is that PRE will burning wood, and when it comes to burning wood people get all warm and fuzzy, weak in the knees, and irrational.

PRE proposes to burn 380,000 tons of wood a year. Most of this wood will be truckloads of fresh cut and chipped trees, not seasoned hardwood delivered by the cord. This green wood is wet and when this water in the wood is driven off if forms all sorts of toxic pollutants like formaldehyde, benzene and 1-3 butadiene. Not to mention the fact that PRE is a major carbon polluter. All of the carbon in the trees burned in PRE will end up in the atmosphere, actually accelerating global warming.

We need a real green energy policy that improves people’s lives and the environment, not one that makes matters worse by just about every measure.

Partnership for Policy Integrity