NO to the biomass power plant in Springfield

Urgent Action Alert: Biomass Public Hearing on July 30th!

The No Biomass campaign now has a dedicated website, run by the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition! Go to NoToxicBiomass.org to find the most up-to-date info about the campaign!

Public Hearing on Proposed RPS Regulation Changes Announced for July 30th

Great news!  

The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committee will be conducting a virtual public hearing on the Baker administration’s proposed biomass rule changes this Friday, July 30th at 10 AM.

We won this public hearing because of your support and advocacy. Our collective efforts, including the 80+ groups that stepped up on short notice to sign our letter asking the TUE Committee to hold this hearing, were key to our success. 

As noted in the hearing announcement, oral testimony is by invitation only. The advocacy community has been given a limited number of slots, and PFPI and members of the No Toxic Biomass campaign have provided names to the TUE committee. However, anyone can attend (virtually) and submit written testimony!

We are urging the TUE Committee to reject DOER’s amendments that would expand renewable energy incentives for wood-burning biomass power plants and roll back critical public health and environmental protections.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Attend the TUE hearing this Friday:  Strong (virtual) turnout at the hearing will demonstrate to the legislature that we are watching closely. The live stream of the public hearing may be viewed under the Hearings & Events section of the Massachusetts legislature’s website: www.malegislature.gov.  

Submit Written Comments: Even a short personal note goes a long way with legislators!  Written testimony can be sent to magdalena.garncarz@mahouse.gov and Samuel.Anderson@masenate.gov by Monday, August 2nd at 5 pm. Ask the TUE Committee to reject DOER’s proposed rule changes that expand renewable energy incentives for wood burning power plants and to recommend expanding protections for environmental justice communities. For more talking points see below.

Contact your State Senator and Representative: Ask them to support and co-sponsor two bills endorsed by the No Toxic Biomass campaign:

  • S.2186/H.3362  prohibits polluting power plants from receiving RPS funds if they are located in, or within 5 miles of an environmental justice community
  • S.2197/H.3333 removes woody biomass burning altogether from Massachusetts’ renewable energy programs

For more information about these bills and to find out who your state legislators are, please visit:  https://www.notoxicbiomass.org/legislative-campaign 

Social Media: Please use the  #BakerNoBiomass hashtag for any social media posts and link to the NoToxicBiomass.org campaign website.

TALKING POINTS:

  • DOER is proposing sweeping changes that will allow inefficient and polluting wood-burning biomass power plants to once again qualify for renewable energy incentives in Massachusetts.
  • The Baker administration’s changes roll back important environmental and public health protections adopted in 2012 that make Massachusetts’ RPS standards the strongest in the nation.
  • Biomass power plants are not “clean energy” – they emit large quantities of harmful air pollution and are damaging to our climate and our forests.
  • Wood-burning power plants emit more carbon dioxide pollution out their stacks than coal or natural gas plants per megawatt of energy produced.
  • The new provision prohibiting biomass power plants from qualifying for the RPS  if they are located in or within 5 miles of an environmental justice community is a positive step and should be expanded to include all combustion technologies that are covered in the RPS.
  • These regulations will allow existing inefficient biomass power plants in Maine, New Hampshire and elsewhere to collect millions of dollars in renewable energy subsidies paid for by Massachusetts residents through their electric bills.
  • Massachusetts ratepayers want to support clean renewable energy, not dirty biomass plants!

For more information, please visit www.notoxicbiomass.org or www.pfpi.net

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).

.

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.