Governor Baker Tries to Sneak Biomass Into Climate Bill

On Friday, July 29, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker vetoed comprehensive climate legislation, sending the bill back with amendments that would effectively protect subsidies for old, dirty biomass power plants. The changes don’t get a mention in his veto letter and modify a few words – with disastrous consequences. PFPI urges the MA House and Senate to override the Governor’s biomass language.

PFPI’s analysis is below. Over 100 organizations have urged the House and Senate to override Baker’s biomass language.

Original Language in H.5060:

SECTION 88. Sections 33 to 36, inclusive, shall take effect upon their passage and shall not apply to any biomass facility qualified by the department of energy resources as a renewable energy generating source pursuant to section 11F of chapter 25A of the General Laws as of  January 1, 2022.

Language in Baker amendment, H.5141:

SECTION 88. Sections 33 to 36, inclusive, shall take effect upon their passage and shall not apply to any biomass facility with a commercial operation date prior to January 1, 2022.

The Legislature’s biomass provisions are urgently needed because the Baker Administration is on the verge of adopting new regulations that will incentivize more wood-burning energy in Massachusetts’ Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). Sections 33-36 of H.5060 remove woody biomass as an eligible fuel source in the RPS, while Section 88 grandfathers in those biomass facilities that have already been qualified under the existing RPS regulations (there are only two of them).

Governor Baker’s amendment (H.5141, Section 88) completely undermines the intent of Sections 33-36 of the climate bill by creating a blanket exemption for any biomass power plant that began commercial operation prior to 2022.  There are dozens of old and polluting wood-burning power plants across New England, particularly in Maine and New Hampshire, that currently do not qualify for subsidies under Massachusetts’ existing RPS, but could be eligible when Governor Baker’s RPS biomass rule changes go into effect later this summer.

Passage of the biomass provisions in H.5060 will ensure that ratepayers’ RPS funds are used to incentivize clean, non-emitting energy technologies, such as wind and solar energy, rather than squandered on wood-burning power plants that are more polluting than coal.  However, if the Governor’s amendment is adopted, the climate bill will have little to no effect in preventing woody biomass energy from being subsidized through the RPS.

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