Baker Administration Presses Forward with Weak Biomass Regs; Shuts Down Public Comment

The Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) harshly criticized the Baker Administration today for rushing through proposed regulations that will undermine efforts to mitigate climate change and clean up fuel burning in Massachusetts, and for denying the public the opportunity to comment on eleventh-hour changes to the program.

The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) ignored requests from PFPI, NRDC and the Conservation Law Foundation to hold a public comment period on significant last-minute changes made to proposed regulations that expand the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (APS) to include incentives for wood-burning boilers and combined heat and power plants.  The most recent changes:

  • Significantly expand the allowable use of whole trees to be cut and burned for fuel
  • Undercount the greenhouse gas emissions from biomass burning
  • Increase public and rate-payer subsidies to polluting biomass facilities, and
  • Increase potential pollution emissions while failing to meet EPA standards.

“For nearly two years, we have been telling DOER that the standards they’re setting aren’t protective, and biomass units subsidized under this program will increase greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in Massachusetts,” said Dr. Mary S. Booth, PFPI’s director. “Now the Baker Administration is working to ram through even weaker regulations before the end of the year.”

In a sharply-worded letter to DOER Booth wrote: “With the final draft APS regulation and guidelines for biomass, DOER has strayed even further from the requirements of the enabling law and introduced new and substantial program modifications for which the public will have to pay. Unfortunately, DOER has denied the public the right to comment.”

She concluded, “Overall, the proposed regulation amounts to a waste of scarce taxpayer and ratepayer resources for a highly polluting and greenhouse-gas intensive technology – funds that would be better spent on clean energy technologies and energy efficiency that actually reduce heat trapping emissions of greenhouse gases. Massachusetts residents deserve better.”

Despite concerns raised by dozens of environmental groups, public health advocates, medical professionals, scientists, and members of the public, DOER Commissioner Judith Judson wrote in an email to stakeholders that the Department anticipates final promulgation of the regulation on December 29, 2017.

The House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, chaired by Rep. Frank Smizik (D-Brookline) will be holding an oversight hearing to review the proposed APS biomass regulations on Monday, December 11.


Partnership for Policy Integrity