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Press release: for immediate release

Council; groups, list concerns about Westfield plant to Commissioner

Greenfield, MA. May 9, 2008 In a signed letter to MA DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt dated April 30, 2008, the Connecticut River Watershed Council and 13 other environmental groups registered their concerns about cooling methods proposed for a new wood chip burning power plant on the Westfield River at Russell. DEP issued a draft permit in February authorizing the plant’s developers to use up to 885,000 gallons of Westfield River water daily to cool the proposed 50 megawatt plant at a dam on the site of the former Westfield Paper Mill.

The groups–including Clean Water Action, the Westfield River Wild and Scenic Advisory Committee, Mass. Audubon, and a half dozen river protection interests, contend that the Westfield River would be degraded by heated water being returned to the river. They also had reservations about the volume of the water withdrawals and questioned the methods used to estimate river flow impacts, according to Andrea Donlon, a River Steward for the Connecticut River Watershed Council. “We all agree that air cooling is the best option for the Westfield River,” Donlon says, “It may cost more money, but many similar plants around the country are employing it.”

One issue that sparked the drafting of a joint letter to the state was DEP’s use of the Westfield River’s historic low-flow record as the benchmark for shutting down the plant and its river cooling operations during times of drought. The groups feel this standard is unduly low, and would harm the river’s aquatic life, “While we appreciate the idea behind this condition, using the lowest flow ever recorded is not an adequate trigger to protect the resource,” the letter states.

Donlon, who helped draft the letter, noted that its intent was not to stymie environmentally sound energy development, “We just don’t want see what’s been proposed as an environmentally friendly project have negative impacts on rivers and habitats,” she stated from CRWC’s Greenfield Headquarters, “We feel this draft permit can be improved.”

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For press information contact: Andrea Donlon (413) 772-2020, ext. 205, or adonlon@ctriver.org.