Massachusetts state house with golden dome

New Bills Will Close Loopholes in Massachusetts’ Clean Energy Laws

Massachusetts State Senator Adam Gomez and Representative Orlando Ramos have introduced new legislation this year to end subsidies for burning woody biomass in Massachusetts. The new bills (S.2136/H.3210 and S.2137/H.3211) would improve air quality, ensure that clean energy subsidies are not directed to climate-harming technologies, and close a loophole in the law that was originally drafted to benefit the proposed Palmer biomass power plant in Springfield.

Last year, the Massachusetts Legislature took decisive action to end renewable energy subsidies for wood-burning power plants in MA’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The Legislature stepped up just in time to prevent the Baker Administration from rolling back the RPS rules in a way that would have allowed polluting biomass power plants from across the Northeast to qualify for this renewable energy subsidy. 

This bold action from the Legislature creates momentum to fix other clean energy programs in Massachusetts that still subsidize biomass energy. The new Gomez/Ramos bills focus on the state’s new Greenhouse Gas Emission Standard for municipal lighting plants (MLPs) and the Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS).

S.2136/H.3210 amends the 2021 Climate Roadmap law to remove biomass from the list of “non-carbon emitting sources” that municipal lighting plants can use to meet the new MLP greenhouse gas emission standard. Although the Climate Roadmap law is  intended to reduce emissions, this provision benefits biomass power plants like the proposed Palmer Renewable Energy plant in Springfield, which had been marketing its power to MLPs.  Calling biomass energy “non-carbon emitting” is counter to fact, and including woody biomass in the MLP standard incentivizes MLPs to purchase biomass power rather than truly clean energy like wind and solar power. 

Passage of this bill will help protect communities like Springfield from this perverse incentive and put Massachusetts municipal utilities on a better path in their energy investments. Read more about S.2136/H.3210 here.

S.2137/H.3211 makes commercial-scaled and institutional heating facilities that burn wood fuels ineligible for subsidies under Massachusetts’ Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (APS). These facilities include wood-burning boilers and furnaces, which emit a disproportionately large amount of air pollution in Massachusetts. Other “renewable thermal” technologies under the APS include non-emitting technologies such as solar hot water, air source heat pumps, and geothermal systems.

This bill grandfathers in existing wood heating units that have already been qualified by DOER to participate in the program and simply removes the option for new commercial and institutional-scale wood boilers and furnaces to qualify under this clean energy program going forward.

Read more about S.2137/H.3211 here.

These bills are aligned with Governor Healey’s platform which states, “Burning wood for bioenergy depletes our forests, increases greenhouse gas emissions, and is a threat to human health. Maura will end subsidies for forest bioenergy for electricity and commercial-scale heat.”

To learn more about the Massachusetts campaign and take action, visit www.notoxicbiomass.org.

 

Partnership for Policy Integrity