Above photo: René Théberge.
Environmental groups today celebrated the enactment of Massachusetts’ new climate law, An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, which will expand clean energy development and end renewable energy subsidies for wood-burning power plants.
The new law makes Massachusetts the first state in the nation to remove woody biomass from its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). While there are only two small biomass plants that currently qualify for MA’s RPS, that number was poised to balloon as a result of imminent changes to the program advanced by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). By removing woody biomass from the RPS program altogether, the new law will prevent DOER’s rule changes from going into effect.
“We are grateful to the Massachusetts legislature for taking bold action to address the climate emergency, and relieved that Governor Baker has signed the bill into law,” said Susan Theberge, co-founder of Climate Action Now. “It is inspiring to see the power of grassroots organizing to create positive change and advance climate justice.”
“The science is clear: burning wood for energy is not a climate solution,” said Laura Haight, U.S. Policy Director for the Pelham-based Partnership for Policy Integrity. “Massachusetts is once again leading the way by removing woody biomass from its definition of renewable energy, and we hope other states and nations will follow.”
“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.”
“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. We’re grateful that the Legislature heard us and agreed that funding biomass projects is a bad idea. For Governor Baker, signing this bill was the right thing to do.”
Thousands of individuals testified and submitted comments over the past three years opposing DOER’s plans to roll back the stringent health and environmental requirements for biomass power plants to qualify for rate-payer subsidies through the RPS. When DOER continued to advance this wildly unpopular proposal, more than one hundred groups, elected officials, and countless individuals across the state called on the Legislature to change the law and end subsidies for woody biomass energy altogether.