Williamstown, Williams Can Challenge Biomass Plant

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Vermont Public Service Board has granted status to the town of Williamstown, Williams College and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission in its hearings on a 29.5-megawatt biomass plant being proposed just over the border.

The order, received by iBerkshires late last night from the Bennington-Berkshire Citizens Coalition, grants the town and Williams College intervenor status and the BRPC full party status to challenge the construction of energy facility at the former Green Mountain Racetrack in Pownal.

Beaver Wood Energy LLC, which is proposing the wood-burning wood-burning and pellet-manufacturing plant, had objected to the three Massachusetts entities, arguing that "the Board's Section 248 jurisdiction over a proposed in-state generation facility's impacts ends at the Vermont border." 

The board, however, responded that "Construction and operation of the proposed project have the potential to generate impacts outside of Vermont, and the Board has jurisdiction to impose conditions that would mitigate those impacts. Given the close proximity of the proposed project to Massachusetts, there is a possibility that residents of Massachusetts will face greater impacts from the proposed project than will Vermont residents."

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The decision is a second blow to the company, which was denied permitting for early construction last month that would have put it in line for up to $50 million in federal stimulus funds.

"This is a hugely important step in our effort to keep the beautiful Hoosic River valley and its environs, which the citizens of Pownal and Williamstown share, free from pollution and environmental degradation," wrote Steve Dew, a member of the Bennington-Berkshire Citizens Coalition.

The order comes just days after the Pownal Select Board, by a 3-2 vote, decided to send a letter to the Public Service Board urging it to deny the Massachusetts entities a role in the permitting process.

The board also granted status to Vermont's Agencies of Agriculture, Food and Markets and of Transportation; Southern Vermont Citizens for Environmental Conservation & Sustainable Energy Inc.; Richard and Leslie Morgenthal, James Winchester, and Joseph Tornabene ("Neighbors") and abuttor Pamela Lyttle. Williams College was also granted pro hac vice admission of attorney Daryl J. Lapp of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, to appear in this proceeding on behalf of the college. 

In light of the number of entities seeking status, the order by Hearing Officer Edward McNamara suggests "parties with similar interests to work together in the preparation of testimony and discovery, as well as the examination of witnesses."

Groups on both sides of the border established the Bennington-Berkshire Citizens Coalition, which has been sharply questioning the need and efficiency of the plant, its possible environmental effects and the background of Beaver Wood's principals.

Vermont Public Service Board Intervention Order
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Williamstown Names Interim Police Chief; Process Sparks Committee Member's Resignation

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The interim town manager Monday announced that Lt. Mike Ziemba will serve as the town's interim police chief.
Ziemba, who has been serving as acting chief since the departure of Kyle Johnson in December, was vetted by a committee of concerned citizens created by the Select Board to advise the town manager, who has hiring authority under the town's charter.
That committee's role was called into question on Monday when one of the residents appointed to serve announced on Facebook that she was resigning over concerns with the process that led to Ziemba's appointment.
While making it clear that she had no objection to Ziemba's elevation to the position, Aruna D'Souza charged that Blanchard "overruled" the advisory committee by not appointing its preferred candidate.
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