Groups Urge Senator Udall to Clean Up His Renewable Energy Bill

A coalition of regional and national environmental groups expressed dismay that the proposal unveiled earlier today by Senator Tom Udall to create a national “Renewable Energy Standard” would provide subsidies for polluting and inefficient wood-burning power plants.

The groups included Arise for Social Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Dogwood Alliance, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, John Muir Project, Partnership for Policy Integrity, Pivot Point, and the Rachel Carson Council.

“Burning trees and forest residues for energy emits more CO2 than fossil fuels, and the emissions impact lasts for decades,” said Dr. Mary S. Booth, president of the Partnership for Policy Integrity. “To avoid catastrophic climate change, the IPCC says we must reduce emissions to nearly zero, and massively increase forest carbon uptake. In other words, we need to grow forests, not burn them for energy.”

“Biomass harvesting is destroying forests in the U.S. Southeast to meet demand overseas for so-called carbon neutral biomass,” said Adam Colette, Program Director for the Dogwood Alliance. “The last thing any renewable energy bill in the US should do is further increase forest harvesting to be burned in power stations. The way the bill is currently written, that’s exactly what it would do.”

“Just like coal plants, wood-burning power plants emit harmful air pollution, including fine particulates, smog precursors, and carcinogens,” said Nicole Ghio, Senior Fossil Fuels Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “A recent report shows air pollution already causes over 100,000 premature deaths in the US each year. Subsidizing technologies that increase killer air pollution is terrible public policy.”

“We have fought for years to keep a biomass power plant from being built in Springfield, which has the worst asthma problems in the nation,” said Katy Pyle, environmental justice organizer at Arise for Social Justice in Springfield, Mass. “Subsidizing these plants will disproportionately impact environmental justice communities, who already suffer high rates of asthma, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic health problems.”

“Burning trees and plants for fuel is a losing dirty formula. We can and must do better, and Senator Udall knows it,” said Bill Snape, Senior Counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The groups are urging Senator Udall to remove biomass from the Renewable Energy Standard in S.1974.

Partnership for Policy Integrity