Prehearing conference to identify issues with biomass plant

On Friday, the Public Service Board of Vermont will hold a pre-hearing conference in Montpelier, Vt. to discuss the proposed Beaver Wood Energy biomass facility. The purposes of this hearing are to identify issues that need to be resolved and to set a schedule for the case hearings. The hearing will also contain discussion of a similar facility proposed to be located in Fairhaven, Vt.

“The College is pursuing an application for intervenor status, which, as described on the Service Board site, would, if granted, give the college a more direct way to express any concerns,” said Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for Public Affairs.

On Oct. 28, Beaver Wood Energy submitted its petition for a certificate of public good to the Vermont Public Service Board regarding Beaver Wood’s proposed biomass plant in neighboring Pownal, Vt.

The company’s developers are requesting an expedited permitting process to meet criteria. If granted, it would allow them to receive a federal tax grant. To qualify for the grant, construction would have to start by the end of December. In its petition documents, Beaver Wood Energy indicated that it would like to address its request to begin limited construction at the pre-hearing conference.

“We are working to stay informed on the permitting process and status of the project in conjunction with the Public Affairs office and our legal counsel,” said Stephanie Boyd, director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives.

“Where it is appropriate we will be helping to coordinate review of the materials provided by Beaver Wood Energy,” she said.

The Zilkha Center also plans to stay involved throughout the process. Boyd said the organization is “working to help provide information in conjunction with Public Affairs and the Center for Environmental Studies about biomass in general and the permitting process and to promote events, lectures and panels on biomass energy and the environmental impacts of electricity production.”

Boyd also said that representatives from the Zilkha Center will likely attend the pre-hearing conference on Friday.

As of yet, there have not been opportunities for those opposed to the proposed biomass plant to officially contest the project. There are many local residents and organizations, however, that have already sent letters to the Vermont Public Service Board and other local government offices regarding the facility’s construction. Boyd said many of these people “want to ensure that the regulators take sufficient time to appropriately review the proposal and address public concerns prior to making a decision on this project.”