MA Pushes to Greenlight Subsidies for Polluting Biomass Power Plants

The Trump Administration isn’t the only one working overtime during the holidays to roll back environmental regulations. Governor Baker and the Massachusetts House of Representatives are trying to push through measures that would allow highly polluting biomass power plants to cash in on Massachusetts’ clean energy incentives. The Legislature has until January 5th to ACT on protecting our climate.

TAKE ACTION NOW! Here’s how you can help:

Call your legislators and:

  1. Ask them to urge the climate conference committee to take language calling biomass power plants “non-carbon emitting” out of the climate bill
  2. And, ask the TUE Committee to hold a hearing on Baker’s proposed RPS rules.

Click here to find your state legislators.

Media Advisory 

The MA Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has proposed a sweeping rollback of forest and climate protections in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard regulations, including creating a new loophole for large electric power plants that burn woody biomass. This proposal was delivered at the 11th hour to the State Legislature, which is currently negotiating a climate package that might also include incentives for biomass power plants.

DOER’s rule changes would directly benefit the developers of the proposed 42-MW Palmer Renewable Energy wood-burning power plant in East Springfield. If built, this facility will be one of the biggest polluters in Western Massachusetts. As profiled this October in The Boston Globe, the surrounding community already suffers high asthma rates and has been fighting this plant for more than a decade.

The Partnership for Policy Integrity, Conservation Law Foundation, and other organizations submitted detailed comments to DOER last year opposing the agency’s plans to allow highly polluting biomass power plants to obtain renewable energy subsidies. Hundreds of citizens spoke out at public hearings in 2019 opposing the changes, and MA Attorney General Maura Healey’s office weighed in with concerns that the proposed changes could lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that “would run counter to the Commonwealth’s obligations” under the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Science-based rules enacted in 2012 limited eligibility for renewable energy subsidies to small, efficient combined-heat-and-power biomass plants. DOER’s rollback of those rules could increase air pollution and carbon emissions by once again allowing large electricity-only biomass power plants such as Palmer to qualify for millions in publicly funded renewable energy subsidies.

Wood-burning power plants emit more CO2 per unit of energy than coal, and spew out tons of  conventional air pollutants, such as fine particulates, which  are known to contribute to asthma, heart disease, and other serious health problems and have been associated with higher fatality rates from Covid-19.

“While citizens of Springfield will pay with their health, the pay-off for the Palmer developers from DOER’s rule changes is considerable: the plant would collect $13-15 million per year from ratepayers in perpetuity,” said Dr. Mary S. Booth, PFPI’s director.

“The Baker Administration is making a fool’s bargain with the biomass industry – we can’t burn our way out of the climate crisis,” Booth said.


For more background:


Partnership for Policy Integrity