|For Immediate Release: August 3, 2022
Susan Theberge, Climate Action Now 413-575-7345
Laura Haight, PFPI, email@example.com 518-949-1797
Climate justice advocates today applauded Massachusetts lawmakers for their bold action passing climate legislation that eliminates renewable energy subsidies for wood-burning power plants, and for standing firm against an 11th hour proposal by Governor Baker that would have gutted this measure.
They were joined by Sen. Mike Barrett and Rep. Jeff Roy, who negotiated the climate bill; Sen. Eric Lesser, Sen. Adam Gomez, Rep. Jay Livingstone and Rep. Orlando Ramos, who sponsored the original biomass legislation; and Jesse Lederman, Springfield City Council President, in calling on Governor Baker to sign the climate bill into law.
“We are so grateful to Speaker Mariano, President Spilka, Chairman Barrett, Chairman Roy, and all our other champions in the House and Senate for taking this important step, especially Senators Lesser, Gomez, and Representatives Ramos and Livingstone, who led the way,” said Susan Theberge, co-founder of Climate Action Now. “It is inspiring to see our state legislators stand up for the climate and once again take meaningful action. As the climate crisis escalates, we call on Governor Baker to do the right thing and sign this bill into law as soon as possible.”
The climate bill, H.5060, An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, removes woody biomass from the definition of “renewable energy” in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and clarifies that wood-burning power plants cannot sell renewable energy credits in Massachusetts. The bill exempts a handful of small facilities that are currently in the program. Governor Baker had sought to create a loophole for all biomass power plants constructed prior to 2022. There are dozens of old and polluting biomass power plants across the Northeast that currently do not qualify for subsidies under Massachusetts’ existing RPS, but could become eligible under the Baker Administration’s biomass rule changes that will go into effect later this summer unless this law is enacted.
“The legislature is stepping up at a critical time to stop the Baker Administration from finalizing rules that will force ratepayers to subsidize polluting wood-burning power plants across the Northeast,” said Laura Haight, from the Pelham-based Partnership for Policy Integrity. ” Removing woody biomass from the definition of renewable energy is an historic step, and assures that our resources are directed toward real climate solutions. After three years of grassroots efforts fighting this rule change, we urge Governor Baker to respect the will of the people and the legislature and allow this bill to become law.”
“Springfield has been an epicenter in the battle against biomass power,” said Springfield Climate Justice Coalition member Naia Tenerowicz. “Our community has been fighting for 15 years to stop Palmer Renewable Energy from building a commercial biomass power plant in one of Springfield’s environmental justice neighborhoods, which would have increased air pollution in a community already overburdened with polluted air and respiratory illness. Eliminating renewable energy subsidies for all wood-burning power plants is an important step towards the swift and just transition to truly clean, green, and renewable energy that is so urgently needed in the face of the climate emergency.”
“Funny thing about politics. People think good policy doesn’t count for much, but it does,” said Senator Michael J. Barrett (D-Lexington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “The communities’ take on biomass was not only just, it was also right, and that has brought it a long way.”
“While I appreciate the Administration’s helpful technical edits that clarify intent, improve terminology, and optimize policy frameworks, I am deeply grateful to the Speaker and the Senate President for standing firm in rejecting attempts to weaken provisions in the bill, including removing biomass from the RPS,” said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D- Franklin), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “The Governor has an incredible choice to make to sign or veto the climate bill and we certainly hope that he embraces the compromises in this legislation like all of us have already done.”
“Woody biomass pollutes our air, hurts our planet, and harms the health of our communities,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow). “Removing RPS subsidies for woody biomass is not only a major victory for our state’s transition to clean, renewable energy, but it’s also a victory for families living near the proposed 35-megawatt biomass-fired power plant in Springfield. A tremendous thank you to the advocates who sounded the alarm from the very beginning and to the local officials, organizations, and residents who fought alongside us on this long effort.”
“There is no need for us to promote this polluting energy source in our state,” said Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston). “I am proud to work with my fellow bill sponsors, legislative colleagues, and climate advocates to keep it out of Massachusetts’ clean energy programs. I thank Speaker Mariano, Senate President Spilka, Chair Jeff Roy, and the rest of the conferees for including this in the bill we just sent to the Governor.”
“I believe the victory over the Palmer Renewable Energy Plant back in 2021 spoke to how I feel about harmful woody biomass – it’s not welcome here,” said Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). “Our communities, especially those that are designated environmental justice communities, needed us to fight for them in the legislature by passing the climate conference committee bill. This legislation will allow our communities to breathe easier, our children to grow up and flourish in cleaner environments, and it will bring us closer to the renewable energy goals the Commonwealth has set.”
“Massachusetts taxpayers should not be subsidizing these harmful biomass incinerators,” said Rep. Orlando Ramos (D-Springfield). “I thank my colleagues for supporting this initiative, and I hope no other community in the Commonwealth has to go through what Springfield went through.”
“We know first hand in Springfield the threat biomass polluters pose to the health and safety of our communities,” said Springfield City Council President Jesse Lederman. “The legislature’s action to ensure our public energy dollars are not subsidizing those polluters is an important step to ensure other communities don’t face the type of threat Springfield has, and can turn our full attention to transitioning to clean and renewable forms of energy.”
“This effort goes back to 2008, when citizens in western Massachusetts came together to oppose several large biomass plants that were proposed in Springfield, Greenfield and Russell,” said Janet Sinclair of Greenfield-based Concerned Citizens of Franklin County. “Burning trees is harmful to our lungs and the planet and should play no role in our state’s clean energy future. The science is clear. And we think the public is clear on this too. Funding biomass projects is a bad idea. For Governor Baker, signing this bill is the right thing to do.”
More than one hundred groups, elected officials, and countless individuals across the state have called on the Legislature and Governor Baker to end subsidies for woody biomass energy. For more information go to www.notoxicbiomass.org and www.pfpi.net.