Massachusetts Legislature Should Put the Brakes on Bad Biomass Regs

If the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has its way, Massachusetts residents will soon be paying “clean energy” subsidies to convert oil and natural gas heat to more polluting biomass wood boilers.

DOER is poised to finalize regulations under the Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS) that would gut existing protections and allow highly polluting bioenergy thermal units and combined heat and power (CHP) units to collect subsidies even while demonstrably increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the most alarming provisions – such as allowing these units to burn up to 70% “non-eligible” fuels and elimination of greenhouse gas accounting for combined heat and power units – were inserted at the last minute, denying the public the opportunity to comment on them.

Meanwhile, biomass CHP plants can double-dip from subsidy programs, collecting ratepayer-funded electricity subsidies from the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the Alternative Portfolio Standard, along with thermal subsidies from the APS.  Should we mention these units are also eligible for up to 80% construction funding from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and that DOER’s regulations don’t comply with EPA’s requirements for wood-burning boilers?

This is not just a big rate-payer ripoff – these units will displace true zero-emissions renewable energy and will seriously undermine state efforts (mandated under the Global Warming Solutions Act) to reduce  greenhouse gas emissions.

The Massachusetts Legislature recognized the potential risks of biomass burning when it expanded the APS to include biomass heating technologies. The law directed DOER to set minimum eligibility standards for boilers using woody biomass fuel that are protective of public health, minimize damage to forests, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and utilize best-in-class commercially feasible technologies. PFPI and other organizations submitted joint comments on previous versions of the regulations in 2016 and 2017, detailing the ways the regulations fall short of the legislative requirements.

PFPI is now urging Massachusetts lawmakers to send the regulations back to DOER for a do-over.  Joining us are the following environmental and public health groups:

Acadia Center
American Lung Association
Buckland Board of Health
Center for Biological Diversity
Clean Water Action
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County
Conservation Law Foundation
Environmental League of Massachusetts
Friends of Peru State Forest
Mass Audubon
Natural Resources Defense Council
Partners for a Healthier Community
Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition
Restore: The North Woods
Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter
Toxics Action Center
Woods Hole Research Center

Massachusetts is set to allocate tens of millions in public funds to a highly polluting technology.  Citizens deserve real solutions, not false promises and more pollution – but DOER’s regulations fall short.

Partnership for Policy Integrity