College granted intervenor status in biomass debate

On Jan. 14, the Vermont Public Service Board issued an order granting intervenor status to the College with regards to the proposal by Beaver Wood Energy to build a biomass plant in Pownal, Vt. “The College is pleased to have been granted intervenor status, which enables us formally to submit evidence, present expert witnesses and cross-examine other witnesses as appropriate,” said Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for Public Affairs.

The Vermont Public Service Board granted the College intervenor status due to the College’s proximity to the site of the proposed plant. Additionally, the College filed for intervenor status due to its concerns about the plant’s possible adverse impacts on aesthetics, water and air quality, traffic and forests that the College owns.

Other entities to which intervenor status was also granted include the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, Southern Vermont Citizens for Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Energy, Vermont Agency of Transportation, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Town of Williamstown.

“We’re in the process of talking with other intervenors about ways we might be able to combine efforts,” Kolesar said.

On Thursday, the College will host a second biomass presentation titled “Getting Biomass Right: Should We Be Generating Electricity from Trees?” featuring Bill Moomaw ’59, director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, and Mary Booth, co-founder of the Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance.

“In addition to being an alumnus and former long-time faculty member, Bill Moomaw is an internationally respected academic and environmentalist, and it was he who put us on to Mary Booth, who’s done extensive analytical work on biomass issues,” Kolesar said.

The event is sponsored by the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, the Center for Environmental Studies and the Office of Public Affairs.
“Now that it’s clear that the permitting process will be a full and thorough one, we hope that people on campus and in the community remain engaged with the issues raised at events such as this,” Kolesar said.
The Zilkha Center has played an important role in the biomass process thus far, working to provide information about biomass in general and promoting events such as the panel discussions.

“One good outcome of the proposal for a biomass plant in Pownal is that it has encouraged us all to develop a better understanding of the current regional and national energy portfolio and environmental implications,” said Stephanie Boyd, director of the Zilkha Center.

“Maybe it will also inspire us to take a more proactive approach to determining where our energy will come from in the future and to work harder to reduce our energy demand,” she added.