While the City Council continues to mull over the future of the wood-burning plant proposed for East Springfield—councilors closed a lengthy public hearing on the matter yesterday without taking a vote—one would-be elected official is taking a strong stand against the project.
Bob Massie, who’s announced a campaign to run for U.S. Senate against Scott Brown next year, this week issued a statement in which he called the plant, proposed for East Springfield by Palmer Renewable Energy, the wrong kind of development for the city and its residents, who already struggle with enough health and environmental problems.
“A safe and healthy home is vital to creating prosperity, and the proposed biomass plant in Springfield will only perpetuate a cycle of pollution and urban decay,” Massie said. “Facilities like these have no place being sited in dense, urban areas, particularly those as overburdened as Springfield. As proposed, this facility would release hundreds of tons of known pollutants linked to asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, into surrounding neighborhoods, including over 55 schools within a five mile radius.”
Massie continued: “We must focus on designing smart, vibrant, and beautiful communities that create sustained growth, both economically and environmentally. As a state and nation, we must build a better life for all. Do we want to continue risking our health and our safety, or will we lead a new revolution based on sustainable, clean energy? I applaud the efforts of STOP and all the other groups and citizens for engaging on this issue, and defending our shared values.”
(By “STOP,” Massie was, presumably, referring to Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, the grassroots coalition opposed to the project. In fact, the group tends to go by the acronym “STIS,” not “STOP.” While that sort of blunder demonstrates that the Somerville-based Massie is perhaps still not quite as closely connected to western Mass. issues as a statewide candidate should be, it’s hard to imagine the growing number of opponents to the PRE project will hold that against him.)
Massie is among the small group of Democrats who’ve already announced plans to challenge Brown. (Also in the running: Setti Warren, mayor of Newton, and Alan Khazei, who ran in the Democratic primary for the 2009 special election that ended with Brown’s victory). He’s also got a damn interesting background: the Democrats’ 1994 candidate for lieutenant governor (he ran on a ticket with Mark Roosevelt; they were toasted at the polls, you might recall, by a couple of Republican fellows called Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci), Massie is a Harvard MBA and an Episcopal priest with a long resume of social activism and a lot of compelling human-interest stories to tell (including a 2009 liver transplant that his campaign says “cured his symptoms and renewed his strength and vigor,” giving him a “miraculous second chance to become a US Senator Massachusetts will be proud of—a compassionate, courageous and relentless advocate for all Americans.”) Last month, Joe Trippi, campaign manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign (oh, if only…), signed on a political adviser to Massie.
Meanwhile, the local battle over the controversial plant could be decided well before the 2012 election. At yesterday’s hearing, city councilors heard testimony on the project, including the question of whether they can and should revoke or amend a special permit granted to the developers in 2008.
The attorneys for the developers insist that the Council lacks the legal ground to do that, and threaten a lawsuit if it does. Plant opponents, meanwhile, contend that changes made to the project after that 2008 vote give the Council just cause to revoke the permit. As Pete Goonan reports in today’s Springfield Republican, Pat Markey, a former city councilor and city solicitor during the Ryan administration, spoke at the meeting, telling the councilors that “there are multiple reasons to revoke the permit, including an increase in wood tonnage, increase in truck traffic, and an increase in the size of trucks from 20-ton to 25-ton, as well as increased concerns about emissions from biomass plants. He urged councilors not to be swayed by the threat of legal action if the special permit is revoked.”
A vote on the matter could come at next Monday’s City Council meeting.