First Local Biomass Law Passed In Vermont

By   June 26, 2015

BiomassGreenfield Vermont is going green! A local ordinance was just passed by the town, the first in the state, to regulate and in some cases bans power plants that utilize large-scale wood-burning power. It also regulates any future plants being built as well. This is a thrill and a victory for the opponents of projects like these.

The ordinance prohibits the practice of waste-to-energy facilities as well as industrial wood-burning biomass plants. For companies like Madera Energy, this was a defeat. According to Silver Lane’s Tom Neilson, the town’s ordinance could have gone further in prohibiting the processes that emit toxin filled smokes such as that of burning wood.

Along with other Greenfield advisory committee members, Janet Sinclair of Shelburne Falls put in a lot of hours working on this ordinance. She for one, a Greenfield native, is happy with the unanimous council vote. Sinclair went on to say “This will fill the gap the state isn’t filling to protect the health of people in this area. The town needed to protect itself,” and believed that as a City, Greenfield should be proud to be the first in the state to pass this ordinance.

Patrick Devlin, the at-large Town Councilor, who chaired the advisory committee, is said to be pleased that others on the council believed that this law was needed. He went on to say “All people have the right to live without environmental pollution. We can always change the ordinance if we need to down the road.”

One lady that grew up in the area but moved away said she returned Greenfield because it is a healthy place to live and with a biomass plant that was proposed, it wouldn’t be. Another resident. Hazel Dawkins, said she wants “good air” for the town where she lives.

Working close with both the advisory board and the Economic Development Committee as a member of the Planning Board, Linda Smith said that the hard work of all for the past two years which included public hearings, included an excellent job by those who researched the issues. She went on to say that as changes come in technology, the document will need to be reviewed from time-to-time.

The law states that only clean, dry wood and clean wood pellets and chips are allowed to be used as fuels. And items like asbestos, chemicals, coal, colored or glossy paper, garbage, lawn clippings and leaves, lead, mercury, plastic, tires as well as construction materials, paints and paint thinner. Other materials banned from burning are asphalt products, manure and there is more expected to be added to the list.

Performance standards are listed in the new ordinance as well which will allow smaller commercial wood-burning devices and facilities. Included within that are multi-broiler cascade systems, wood chip and wood pellet facilities and energy-efficient motors. Health and environmental impact assessments are required as well as following storage standards.

It took 14 months for the volunteer advisory committee to create the ordinance. It was reviewed by the EDC and Planning Board prior to be presented to the council for vote. There was another year spent reviewing it by the board and committee to make revisions.

The ordinance allows anaerobic digesters, defined as the “naturally occurring process that converts organic compounds such as wastewater sludge and regional or local organic waste to methane, which can be used as a fuel for thermal use, electricity production or compressed natural gas.” The building inspector, health board and fire department will be in charge of enforcing the ordinance.

It was the Madera wood burning power plant that caused a debate and forced the forming of the advisory committee. A regional health agent for Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Glen Ayers was quoted as saying “The biomass ordinance sets a strong precedent to deal with air quality. This is good for Greenfield and the county.”