Rushing Rivers Blog

Important Updates on the Russell Biomass Plant Controversy

January 28th, 2009

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Are Bush Era environmental policies prevailing in Western MA?

The permitting process for the new Russell Biomass Plant on the Westfield River has been performed without the input of qualified scientists or resource managers, and the value of our water, YOUR water, has been placed at $0. Please, contact your local media outlets about this issue, and help Rushing Rivers Institute to promote healthy Green industry in Western Massachusetts.

Summary of the Issue:

The Russell Biomass wood burning power plant faces new challenges in fighting the appeal by local citizens and of the water withdrawal permit granted by DEP in July, 2008. The permit allows RBM to consume by evaporation for cooling at least 190 million gallons of water a year (or 5.5 trillion gallons over thirty years) without paying for a drop. Estimates of the company’s profits over thirty years exceed $1,000,000,000, according to the citizen’s expert testimony filed with DEP.

Dr. Piotr Parasiewicz, of the Rushing Rivers Institute, a world renowned expert on river ecology, submitted written testimony to DEP saying that the river habitat assessment used by DEP for the permit is based on “speculation”. Massachusetts regulations require that DEP should base such permit approvals on “best science”, but Dr Parasiewicz asserts that the state ignored available science and lacked sufficient factual basis to grant the permit, and that Russell Biomass’ permit application “appears to be full of errors and inaccuracies.” DEP’s conclusion in granting the permit that the water withdrawal “will have no significant impact on the Westfield River” is simply not supported by the facts.

The permit applicant, Russell Biomass, joined by DEP, asked the hearing officer to strike from the record all of Dr. Parasiewicz’s testimony.

At the hearing on January 27th, the presiding officer refused to hear the testimony of Dr. Parasiewicz and six local citizens on the negative effect the withdrawal will have on river ecology, fisheries, and recreation. On the other hand, the hearing officer accepted all of the testimony from the Department of Environmental Protection and Russell Biomass. This appears to be highly unbalanced. It would seem that politics and the influence of the developers are interfering with the proper enforcement of our laws.

Rushing Rivers is doing everything possible to ensure that due diligence is being performed in this process but the government’s stonewalling tactics make it very difficult. The opposition is being silenced with procedural technicalities, scientific evidence is ignored and facts are cherry picked to promote maximizing profits for some. The agency is disregarding its responsibility for protection of public trust.

This sounds way too familiar and is very surprising in Massachusetts.

We are waiting for the ruling although it is quite clear that it will favor of the developer.

Dr. Parasiewicz’s pre-filed testimony can be downloaded from Our Site

Stay Tuned for Updates!

Thank you,
Rushing Rivers

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