News Briefs

As the Trash Piles Up, Will Incinerators Come Back?

by Advocate Staff

The state’s new Solid Waste Master Plan has a lot of important ideas for reducing waste and promoting recycling, but the part of the plan drawing the most heat deals with burning trash.
The state has modified its 23-year-ban on building new trash burning plants to allow burners that use “innovative and alternative technologies for converting municipal solid waste to energy or fuel on a limited basis,” according to the DEP.
Comment on the plan is running 14,000 to 11 against, according to environmental activists who are monitoring the department of Environmental Protection web site, where the report is posted.
Among those logging opposition to new incineration plants is Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz.
Narkewicz, in his letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection, expressed his strong opposition to new trash-burning plants because of what he calls their “detrimental effects on public health and environmental resources.”
The reason for the new interest in trash burning: The commonwealth is fast running out of space to put waste, a problem the mayor understands since he was instrumental in closing Northampton’s landfill this year.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported last week that burners using alternative technologies such as gasification would be limited to 350,000 tons of waste per year. That is half the state’s projected shortfall in landfill capacity by 2020, according to the DEP.
The state’s Solid Waste Master Plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in waste by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
The Don’t Waste Massachusetts Coalition of environmental groups criticized the state’s decision on trash burners, calling it a move away from a promised “zero waste path.”
Eric Weiss, sustainability director for the Hampshire Council of Governments, told the Gazette that there are incinerators now operating in Springfield and Dalton that turn trash into electricity.
“There’s a big debate about whether you consider burning trash as renewable energy,” Weiss said. “I would like to see what kind of technologies the state is talking about.”
He added that other aspects of the state’s final Solid Waste Master Plan are positive, including strategies to promote recycling and composting.
“They’ve put those things in the front of the line and that’s a good hierarchy to have,” said Weiss, who is also coordinator of the Hilltown Resource Management Cooperative. “I don’t mind looking at new technologies for trash burning as long as we are doing the right things first.”•

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It: Eat More Kale

By Maureen Turner

You love your community’s farmers’ market, your local farm stand, your CSA farm share.
But sometimes, even in the best of relationships, we begin to take our beloved for granted.
Forget the flowers and boxes of chocolate. Here’s an easy way to show your love for the Pioneer Valley’s rich agricultural scene: CISA’s Local Hero Challenge.
This is the 20th anniversary of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), and to mark that milestone, the South Deerfield organization is asking supporters to accept monthly challenges designed to “connect to more local farms, put more local food on your table, and share your stories about growing, buying, and eating local.”
“People are excited about local food,” said Margaret Christie, CISA’s special projects director. And local growers have responded to that enthusiasm; the Valley now has 49 farmers’ markets and 55 farms that sell CSA shares.
“Those farmers have stepped up for us,” Christie said; the Local Hero Challenge is an opportunity for locavores to return that love.
No need to fear; the challenges are fun and easy. This month, for instance, they include bringing a friend to a farmers’ market and sharing, via social media, your favorite recipe for the delicious asparagus that’s (finally!) popping up in the Valley. In March, participants were called on to visit a sugar shack; last month, they were asked to share their favorite uses for local greens.
Are you up for the challenge?
If so, sign up at Participants will be entered in a raffle to win a “local treat.” They’ll also be doing their part to help reach CISA’s 20-year goal of doubling the amount of local food in Valley diets to 25 percent.•


A Mail-In Tax Haven Protest

by Pete Redington

Last week, as Congress considered further deregulating Wall Street’s banking industry by repealing aspects of Dodd-Frank, a MassPIRG campaign was organizing activists to send thousands of postcards to a building on the Cayman Islands, the registered address of Bank of America.
“Ugland House is a modest five-story office building in the Cayman Islands, yet it is the registered address for 18,857 companies,” MassPIRG’s Legislative Director Deirdre Cummings tells the Advocate. “Bank of America, a company kept afloat by taxpayers during the financial meltdown, currently operates 311 subsidiaries in tax havens [like the Cayman Islands] and has stashed $17.2 billion offshore, on which it would owe $4.5 billion in taxes, according to the company’s most recent SEC filing.”
“A recent MASSPIRG report [see “Shelters and Taxes,” April 18, 2013] also found that offshore tax dodging costs Massachusetts $1.6 billion annually,” Cummings continues, “which would be enough to pay for 666 new commuter rail trains or double the entire operating budget of the MBTA.”
Last week, the House Financial Services Committee reviewed nine separate bills that Congress passed in 2010 to more effectively regulate derivative trading on Wall Street.
“A key effort in the Dodd-Frank financial reform act has been to bring transparency and reforms to the complex, shadowy market of derivatives,” reports the Washington Post. “Firms that are able to hide [trading] information from regulators by using complex derivatives are a big problem for ending Too Big To Fail.”
The chairman of the influential House Financial Services Committee is Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who took the seat this past January, just before he went on a ski vacation to Park City, Utah with “representatives of the banking industry,” according to ProPublica.
ProPublica reports, “There’s no evidence the fundraiser broke any campaign finance rules. But a ski getaway with Hensarling, whose committee oversees both Wall Street and its regulators, is an invaluable opportunity for industry lobbyists.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Hensarling’s JEF Fund accepted donations from PricewaterhouseCoopers, MasterCard, Credit Suisse, Capital One, US Bank, and UBS around the time of the congressman’s Wall Street ski weekend.
Bank of America, apparently, was stuck on the Cayman Islands.•

Southern Vermont’s Scenic Route 100 Is Now Official

by Pete Redington

Visitors who enjoy the southern portion of the Green Mountain State got another reason to road trip this spring, as State Route 100 received Scenic Byway designation.
“On April 18, the Vermont Transportation Board approved the Scenic Route 100 expansion,” the Brattleboro Reformer reports. “At 138 miles, it is currently Vermont’s second largest byway. The largest is the Connecticut River byway.”
Representatives from the 20 neighboring towns included in the route are expected to meet this month to discuss how best to take advantage of the scenic byway designation, the Reformer says.

“Crisscrossing along the spine of the Green Mountains,” reads the website, the route runs “from the Mad River Byway to the Massachusetts’s border.”•

Look Up to See Springfield

by Maureen Turner

Everyone knows about Springfield’s rich architectural history, but how many have taken the time to slow down and take a close look at it?
This week Pro Springfield Media and the Springfield Preservation Trust kick off a series of free lunch-hour walking tours of downtown’s bricks-and-mortar history.
The first tour takes place Thursday, May 16, at noon and will cover the Mattoon Street/Apremont Triangle neighborhood. Leading the tour: Bob McCarroll, a retired city planner, member of the Springfield Historical Commission and the SPT and long-time resident of Mattoon Street, which comprises one of the city’s historic districts.
According to the organizers, the “Look Up, Springfield” walking tours will take place on the third Thursday of the month through September. Future walks will cover State Street and the Quadrangle (June 20), Court Square (July 18), the neighborhood from Lyman to Bridge streets (Aug. 15) and the neighborhood from State to Union streets (Sept. 19). Each tour kicks off at noon from Monarch Place Plaza, rain or shine.•

Author: Advocate staff

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