Pownal Biomass Project Stalls

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(Host) Plans for wood-fueled power plants in Fair Haven and Pownal have been put on hold.

That will give officials time to decide whether the projects need both a state development review permit and a license from utility regulators.

VPR’s Susan Keese has the story.

(Keese) This fall, backers of the two 30 megawatt wood power generating proposals were racing against the clock to take advantage of federal tax grants set to expire at the end of 2010.

Beaver Wood Energy, the developer, filed an application with the Public Service Board even though air quality and other studies were still incomplete. The company hoped to win permission to break ground on some road work to qualify for the grants.

In December the Public Service Board denied that request. But a few days later Congress voted to extend the grant program into 2011.

Hans Huessy is the lawyer for Beaver Wood Energy.

(Huessy) "At that point we took a step back and said that now we have more time available to us. We’re not operating under this artificial deadline, and so we could gather some additional information to add to the filing that hadn’t been available in the late fall when we made our initial section 248 filing."

(Keese) But the state Public Service Board has put the case on hold while it considers whether the projects need approval under both the state’s development review law and its law governing utility developments.

That’s because the two proposed plants also include wood-pellet manufacturing operations, which might trigger Act 250 review. Each plant would have the capacity to produce and ship a hundred thousand truckloads of wood pellets annually.

(Morgenthal) "It’s a question of jurisdiction, who has jurisdiction over the pellet production component of the energy producing plant."

(Keese) Pownal resident Rick Morgenthal is a founder of the Bennington/Berkshire Citizens’ Coalition.  The group was incorporated in hopes of gaining party status in the state’s approval process for the plant.

Morgenthal says his group favors using Act 250, which involves more local input.  The Public Service Board’s "certificate of public good" process is designed to consider power projects at the state level.

But Beaver Wood Energy President Tom Emero says asking for two approval under both laws goes against an important aspect of the state’s energy policy.

(Emero) "Which is to create projects which have combined heat and power, that means that you use the waste heat for some other source."

(Keese) Emero says pellet production is a small, but very much integrated, part of the operation, designed to utilize wood waste and waste energy.

He says that the move is little more than an attempt to make the project too expensive to complete.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.





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