Not long ago, I wrote on this blog about the controversial proposal by Palmer Renewable Energy to build a $150 million wood-burning plant on Page Boulevard—a plan that has prompted activists concerned about the potential public health and environmental effects of the project to organize in opposition.
In response to that article, a reader who signed his post “Dave M.” asked this question in the comment section: “Wondering why no articles really say who Palmer Renewable is? All I ever see is the company name and never its principles. Owners get lots of city contracts and are political contributors as well.”
Dave’s question prompted me to search public records about Palmer Renewable Energy. Here’s what I found:
Palmer Renewable Energy LLL is a limited liability corporation, based on Blanchard Road in Palmer and organized in 2005, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. Its resident agent and manager is David J. Callahan, who is also president of Palmer Paving Corporation, which is owned and run by the Callahan family. Palmer Paving is the owner of the Page Boulevard property where the plant would be built. According to a corporate website, Palmer Paving and Barletta Engineering, based in Canton, are working in partnership, under the name Caletta Renewable Energy, to develop the plant.
Palmer Paving, which was organized in 1955, has held numerous state and municipal contracts over the years. They include, recently, a $630,000 contract with the city of Springfield to repave about 20 residential streets around the city, scheduled to begin this month; a $1.7 million contract to resurface Roosevelt Avenue, a project that begin this spring; as well as a piece of $17 million in roadway improvements along Springfield’s State Street corridor, connected to the opening of the new federal courthouse there.
Records from the Mass. Office of Campaign and Political Finance show the family that owns Palmer Paving are significant political donors. Since 2002, employees of Palmer Paving—all but a couple of them members of the Callahan family— have made 65 contributions to political candidates, totaling $25,825. Many of those contributions went to state legislators, including, in the Valley, state Sen. Gale Candaras of Wilbraham and state Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee.
On the municipal level, Callahan family members who work for Palmer Paving have given $1,625 to Mayor Domenic Sarno over the past 13 months. City Councilor Jimmy Ferrera Jr. received two $250 contributions from David Callahan, one in October 2008 and the other in June of 2009. Councilor Bud Williams—who will leave the Council at the end of the year, after a failed mayoral bid this fall—received $1,000 from Callahan family members from October 2008 to June of 2009. Williams also received a $500 donation from the president of Barletta Engineering in June 2009. City Councilor Jose Tosado received a $250 donation from David Callahan in October 2008.
In September of 2008, the City Council granted Palmer Renewable Energy a permit to build the plant. Only two councilors—Rosemarie Mazza Moriarty and Pat Markey, both of whom decided to not run for re-election this fall—voted against the permit.
For more on a recent decision by the state to suspend proposed biomass permits, pending an environmental study, see this recent article by my editor, Tom Vannah.