Letter to Pownal, VT Select Board

October 20, 2010
Board of Selectmen
P.O. Box 411
Pownal, VT 05261

Dear Board Members:

You and other governmental bodies may have to make some difficult decisions regarding the proposal to develop a biomass facility at the former racetrack.

The possibility of creating jobs and adding to the Town’s tax base is certainly attractive. So is the idea of helping to decrease our country’s dependence on oil, especially from foreign sources.

At the same time, a biomass plant of this scale could seriously affect the quality of air, the availability of water, the health of woodlands, the integrity of roads, and the health of community members. It’s conceivable that even the economic impact could turn out to be negative. If these adverse results ensued, they could well affect the region and not just Pownal and Vermont.

For these reasons, I would like to ask of you one thing and offer you another.

For the sake of all of us in the region I ask that you and all permitting bodies take the full time needed to base such complex and important decisions on appropriately full information. My understanding is that the size of any negative effects would be determined by details of the proposed operation that are not yet available. Those details, once known, would need to be analyzed. Good government, of the kind that I understand you work hard to provide, would seem to require in the case of such high-stakes decisions an even greater than usual degree of due diligence.

What I can offer, if you’d find it useful, is the assistance of Williams faculty, staff, and students knowledgeable about environmental issues in helping the community understand the complicated questions involving the burning of biomass and the potential effects of this proposed plant once its details are known. We’re already scheduling here on campus public discussions of the broader issues. While we hope that residents from throughout the region will attend these events, we’d be happy to co-sponsor with you similar ones in locations more convenient to Pownal residents. We could also help analyze the details when they become available.

I thank you in advance for the care I anticipate you will take in this process and encourage you to be in touch with me if there’s any way that you think Williams could help clarify these interesting and important questions.

Adam Falk

CC:    Pownal Planning Commission, Bennington County Regional Commission