Pownal and Williamstown Concerned Citizens Groups Merge

Guest Blogger, Dana Pilson, of the Bennington-Berkshire Citizens Coalition submits this post about coalition reorganization and up-coming panel.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., November 10, 2010 – Concerned Citizens of Pownal and Concerned Citizens Williamstown have merged to form the “Bennington-Berkshire Citizens Coalition.”  The name emphasizes region-wide cooperation as the group works to educate residents of both counties about biomass incineration, its hazards for people and the environment, and the history of Beaver Wood Energy, LLC, the company that proposes to build a 29.5 megawatt biomass-burning facility at the former Green Mountain Racetrack in Pownal, VT.

The group seeks to slow the permitting process to allow local residents and stakeholders, including the staff, faculty and students of Williams College, adequate time to study the proposal and the environmental and quality-of-life impacts a biomass incinerator would have on the community.  Beaver Wood has applied for an expedited partial permit in order to begin construction in December and thereby qualify for substantial federal taxpayer subsidies before the end of the year.

The Bennington-Berkshire Citizens Coalition will sponsor a free public forum, “An Open-Air Discussion About Biomass” on Saturday, November 20th, at 4 p.m., in Fellowship Hall at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown, MA.

The panelists are as follows:

Chris Matera, Civil Engineer and Founder, Massachusetts Forest Watch, http://www.maforests.org/

Rachel Smolker, Biologist and Co-Director, Biofuelwatch

Hillary Lister, resident of Athens, Maine, where community action helped shutter a biomass-burning facility.

The panelists will give brief presentations, followed by a question and answer session. Members of the Bennington-Berkshire Citizens Coalition will be on hand to distribute information, enlist volunteers, and answer any additional questions the public may have.

Chris Matera’s presentation is titled “Massachusetts and New England Forests at the Crossroads,” an examination of the threats to forests, air quality, climate stability, and public finances posed by new biomass-burning energy projects.  Matera will also discuss recent aggressive logging in public forests.

Rachel Smolker, a biologist, co-director of Biofuelwatch and an organizer with Climate SOS, will give a talk titled, “Pownal in the National and Global Context.” She has researched, written and organized extensively on the impacts of biofuels and bioenergy on land use, forests, biodiversity, food, people and the climate. She also works with various coalitions including the Mobilization for Climate Justice, Climate Justice Now and others opposing market-based solutions to climate change and other “false solutions.”

Hillary Lister of Athens, Maine, has first-hand experience in dealing with Thomas Emero and Bill Bousquet of Beaver Wood Energy, LLC, and has been a leader within the anti-biomass-burner movement inMaine. Lister will highlight the role of local activism in stopping a biomass incinerator in Athens and a biomass dump in Lewiston.  She will talk about her decade-long experience with a previously existingbiomass power plant in her town, including its eventual forced closing in 2002 after a series of fires fueled by piles of wood chips and failures to meet state air pollution standards.

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