NO to the biomass power plant in Springfield

Urgent Action Alert

Statement from the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition

The Springfield Climate Justice Coalition (SCJC) commends the Massachusetts Legislature for taking into consideration the justified concerns of Springfield residents about a large biomass power plant proposed in this community. 
 
After hearing from SCJC, its member groups, allies, and thousands of Massachusetts residents, the Legislature removed biomass from the list of qualified energy sources for a new Greenhouse Gas Emission Standard established for municipal lighting plants and called on the Baker Administration to conduct a study on the health and climate impacts of burning biomass for energy. 

Photo credit to Rene Theberge; taken before the Covid-19 pandemic

 However, the new climate bill will not protect Springfield residents and people living in the surrounding cities and towns from the threat of a proposed biomass plant in that community. Currently, inefficient biomass power plants don’t qualify for renewable energy credits in Massachusetts. But new rules submitted by the Baker Administration’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER) in December would roll back these standards and allow a long-contested plant, proposed by Palmer Renewable Energy, to qualify for $13-$15 million a year in clean energy subsidies paid for by Massachusetts ratepayers.

The Palmer biomass plant will disproportionately impact low-income communities of color that already have some of the worst air quality in the entire country. The City of Springfield has been classified as the “Asthma Capital” of the US by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. One in five children in Springfield have asthma and one in four in Holyoke. The negative impacts of pollution from the Palmer biomass power plant will be felt well beyond the city limits of Springfield. Furthermore the rule change will open the door for other polluting biomass plants in the Northeast.

Photo credit to Rene Theberge. Taken before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Legislature’s TUE committee has a narrow window of time to hold a public hearing and recommend changes to the RPS regulations. DOER  should not be allowed to rush through these rule changes prior to (1) finalizing the 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan and (2) to conducting the health impact study that the climate bill requires the Baker Administration to conduct. We are urging the TUE committee to hold a public hearing on these regulations and seek more input, particularly from the communities who will be most impacted.

We join with the Attorney General’s office and dozens of environmental organizations in calling on the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) to hold a public hearing on these regulations and seek more input from the communities disproportionately affected that will have to deal with the damaging results of the pollution that a biomass plant to be built in Springfield will have on them. We also request the TUE Committee examine the scientific basis for introducing the new regulations into the effort to fight climate change.
 
We support passage of the climate bill and call upon the Legislature to join us in urging Governor Baker to protect the health of our children, vulnerable populations, and the climate by withdrawal of the proposed biomass rule changes. 

Take Action Now

Click here to find out what you can do to fight back against biomass

Here’s why we are fighting:

Photo credit to Rene Theberge. Taken before the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Dangerous health impacts: Burning biomass emits pollutants and particulates which could increase the risk of complications and death from COVID-19 for people already at high risk. Living near the proposed polluting incinerator will bring higher risks for asthma, heart disease, cancer, and other health conditions. If the language in H.4933 calling biomass “non-carbon emitting energy” is not removed, it will give the green light for Palmer to receive the financing it needs. If the Palmer biomass power plant is built, Springfield will become a sacrifice zone to produce power for wealthier communities elsewhere in the state.
  • Worsening the climate crisis: The Partnership for Policy Integrity recently wrote that “Biomass power plants are major sources of CO2 emissions. Smokestack CO2 emissions from a wood-burning power plant are about 150% those of a new coal plant, for the same amount of electricity generated, and about 350% those of a new combined cycle natural gas plant” (source). “The Palmer plant would worsen an already dire situation by emitting more than 200 tons per year of fine particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, carcinogens, and other harmful air pollutants out its smokestack, plus additional air pollution from truckloads of wood delivered to the facility and dust from wood fuel and ash stored on site. The plant is permitted to operate 24/7 and burn nearly a ton of wood per hour” (source).

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Watch this video to learn more about the biomass issue from members of the Springfield community and hear their call to action! This video was made by members of the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition.

To find out more information about the legislative measures that would incentivize biomass, the environmental harm that biomass causes, and other information related to this issue, go to the Partnership for Policy Integrity’s website

Letters to Share

Share this letter from over 30 MA organizations to the co-chairs of the TUE committee, urging them to hold a hearing and reconsider their push to approve regulatory amendments to the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard that would grant the Palmer biomass plant and other biomass plants subsides that would make them financially viable

Share the Show Us The Science Letter, signed by over 100 organizations, demanding that the Conference Committee show us scientific evidence that backs up their claim that biomass is “non-carbon emitting.”

Share this powerful letter from the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition about how this proposal will harm Springfield residents who are already suffering disproportionately from air pollution. 

Share this letter from 60 MA Organizations to the Conference Committee. These groups stand in solidarity with the Springfield community and urge the Massachusetts Legislature to reject language in the House’s proposed climate legislation that would pave the way for the construction of a biomass plant in Springfield. The signatories include a diverse array of organizations that work on public health, environmental justice, clean and affordable energy, climate change, and environmental protection in Massachusetts.

You can find more letters from the Springfield community to read and share here.

Photo credit to Rene Theberge. Taken before the Covid-19 pandemic.