The Public Service Board has asked for additional review as it considers the impacts of a proposed new road that would help alleviate traffic concerns associated with the planned wood-fired power plant in North Springfield.
PSB hearing officer John Cotter, in a decision dated July 12, said he had concluded that “additional process” was necessary to consider the memorandum of understanding the developer had recently reached with the town of Springfield, as well as an agreement with the state Agency of Natural Resources regarding wood harvest practices.
Cotter said the two agreements were designed to address earlier problems identified during the review process of the 35-megawatt North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project. He said the proposed solution may “give rise to new issues not yet examined.”
The decision for additional review and information was opposed by one of the attorneys representing the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project. The attorney argued anything that delayed a decision by the PSB would delay the start of construction on the project and potentially affect $40 million in government tax benefits, which require construction starts or construction contracts be signed in 2013.
Attorney Peter VanOot of Downs Rachlin Martin of Lebanon, N.H., said Thursday the proposed road was not part of the biomass plant project, and neither was the thermal heat loop proposed for a residential neighborhood in North Springfield. He said the road was a town project, while funding would come from the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project.
VanOot wrote to the Public Service Board on Tuesday saying the Springfield agreement didn’t warrant additional review by the board and would needlessly delay the project.
VanOot noted the Public Service Board had asked for all parties to submit legal briefs on the issue of whether Section 248 or by Act 250, the state’s land use law, applied to the road construction.
Under the memorandum, Springfield would plan the project and obtain the necessary rights of way, but funding would come from the biomass project in the form of a tax stabilization agreement.
VanOot said that traffic generated by the biomass plant could be accommodated by existing roads and that the new road wasn’t necessary for the project.
Both the Vermont Natural Resources Council and the National Wildlife Federation had requested additional discovery on the two memos and asked for possible hearings regarding the forest health plan and the Springfield road issue.
But VanOot said the fact that the biomass developers had been able to resolve issues with the Agency of Natural Resources and Springfield “should be regarded as a positive development and should be supported.” He said the developers had adopted what ANR wanted in regard to forest health and a harvest plan.
VanOot said the town had long wanted a better access to the North Springfield Industrial Park, which would connect the park with Route 10 and bypass local roads.
The biomass plant is a joint project of Winstanley Enterprises and Weston Solutions. Winstanley owns the former Fellows Corp., plant in the North Springfield Industrial Park, which it has converted into a home for several industrial businesses. The biomass plant would be built next door to the former Fellows complex.
Town Manager Robert Forguites could not be reached for comment Thursday. Last month Forguites said the town had pursued the memorandum with the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project as a way of “getting in writing” promises that had been made to the town regarding the project.
Robert Kischko, chairman of North Springfield Action Group, which is opposed to the wood-fired power plant, said his group believed that the two memos came too late in the review process to be considered.
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