Last Friday marked the close of a three-month public comment period on the Baker Administration’s proposal to overhaul rules that establish what electric power generation resources qualify for renewable energy subsidies. Massachusetts clean energy advocates sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides sharply criticizing these proposed regulatory changes that would, among other things, significantly increase rate-payer subsidies for wood-burning power plants and garbage incinerators.
The letter, signed by Acadia Center, Conservation Law Foundation, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, the Massachusetts Sierra Club, Partnership for Policy Integrity, and RESTORE: The North Woods, states:
“[T]he Department of Energy Resources (DOER), which is now under your purview, has led a deeply flawed rulemaking process for an even more deeply flawed proposal to rewrite regulations implementing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).
…These regulations are currently the linchpin of Massachusetts climate policy; numerous other policies of the Commonwealth incorporate RPS-eligibility in their implementation, including the Clean Peak Standard now under development. Changes to the RPS regulations must be grounded in environmental and climate science.”
The organizations signing today’s letter commit to “help[ing] the Baker administration correct course and to ensure that the RPS assists the state in complying with the Commonwealth’s climate mandates, rather than promoting technologies that will actually increase emissions.” The groups are requesting stakeholder input into a study that the Baker Administration is only now conducting on the impacts of the proposed regulations, and the opportunity for environmental advocates and climate scientists to meet with decision makers to share their information.
Throughout the public comment period, DOER’s proposals to substantially roll back science-based standards governing the eligibility of biomass power plants for subsidies raised the most extensive concerns. Nearly one hundred organizations signed on to a letter to DOER calling on the agency to withdraw its proposed rule changes, which also impact subsidies for hydroelectric power and other areas of renewable energy. Signers included local, state and national environmental groups, public health advocates, consumer protection groups, local governments, and municipal groups, including the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.
Dozens of scientists, doctors, environmentalists, and concerned citizens testified at public hearings across the state, and more than a thousand written comments were submitted in opposition. In addition, nearly 40 state legislators submitted a letter raising concerns about the proposed biomass eligibility rollbacks, and Attorney General Maura Healey also weighed in, flagging multiple ways in which the proposal may violate state law and undermine efforts to meet climate change goals.