Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Both Sides Claim Victory In DEP Power Plant Permit

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Opposite sides of a battle to construct or stop a proposed 350-megawatt power plant in Brockton are claiming victory after a decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection has given its approval to a needed air quality permit for the project and has rejected the city’s and opponents’ claim the area is subject to Environmental Justice restrictions.
Jonathan Winslow, project manager for Brockton Power, the company that has proposed building the $350 million natural gas plant on Oak Hill Way, said the air permit approval by the DEP is a clear sign the project will meet the environmental standards necessary for the project—despite opponents’ assertions the project will be a health and safety risk to the surrounding community.
“We cleared a major regulatory hurdle when the DEP approved the air permit,” Winslow said.
In its approval issued last month, the state DEP concluded “the project site is not located in an Environmental Justice area as determined by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.”
The approval notes the “nearest Environmental Justice areas with low income and/or minority populations are 1,000 feet to the west, 1,700 feet to the north, and 2,100 feet to the east,” and concludes, “the project site property lines do not border any Environmental Justice neighborhood. The industrial park does not include any residents and therefore is not an Environmental Justice neighborhood.”
While power plant officials count the DEP’s decision as a win, so do the opponents of the project, including Brockton Mayor Linda Balzotti.
“They are not in a good position at all,” Balzotti said.
She said she believes the city and an opponents’ group Stop The Power gained a victory because the decision also includes a stipulation that because the power plant is not under construction as of July 1, 2011 the project will need to gain another permit, Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD, from the Massachusetts DEP that measures ambient air quality.
“They now have to get the PSD, there is an appeal of the air permit and we are putting that together now,” Balzotti said. “The air permit is not the be all, end all,” Balzotti said.
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