Massachusetts Policy

Our roots are in Massachusetts, where we helped turn the tide on the biomass industry. 

In 2008, after three large wood-burning power plants were proposed in western Massachusetts, PFPI’s founder, Dr. Mary Booth, joined a community of scientists and activists who were alarmed about the impacts these plants would have on forests, air pollution, public health, and our climate.  Among other things, we pushed the Patrick Administration to eliminate renewable energy subsidies for biomass power plants based on the net carbon impact of burning wood for energy.  Ultimately, we prevailed, and in 2012 Massachusetts became the first in the nation - and the world - to recognize that biomass power is not carbon neutral.   

When all of our progress came  under threat by a new administration, PFPI fought back. The Baker Administration sought to roll back these precedent-setting biomass standards. First, the MA Department of Energy Resources (DOER) weakened standards for wood-heating in the state’s Alternative Portfolio Standard. Then, in 2019, it proposed the same  changes to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) regulations, in order to “streamline” the two programs. These changes would allow  highly polluting biomass electricity plants to once again qualify for lucrative subsidies in Massachusetts. 

Working in coalition with local groups and elected officials in Springfield, MA, where the community was still fighting one of the three original proposed biomass plants, we launched the No Toxic Biomass campaign to highlight both the climate and the environmental justice impacts of biomass energy. Ultimately, the campaign succeeded not only in persuading the MA Department of Environmental Protection to revoke the air permit for the Springfield biomass plan in 2021, but also convincing the State Legislature to remove woody biomass from the RPS entirely as part of Massachusetts’ new climate law enacted in 2022. More than 100 groups supported this and further biomass policy reforms in Massachusetts.

Stay tuned for information about our future campaign priorities in the Bay State.


Massachusetts regulations promote forest harvesting for biomass fuel

By pretending that cutting and burning whole trees doesn’t add carbon to the atmosphere, the newly watered-down Massachusetts regulations claim the legitimacy of being “based on Manomet” – while ignoring that study’s key finding.

All posts, Carbon emissions, Forests, Massachusetts, States, Subsidies, Uncategorized

Five Groups Sue EPA Over Punt on Biogenic Greenhouse Gas Regulation

EPA has been presented with ample evidence that biomass energy increases greenhouse gas emissions, but has ignored the science to favor a politically-connected industry.

All posts, Carbon emissions, Litigation, Massachusetts, US Work

From Australia to Massachusetts, biomass energy falls out of favor

What do Australia and Massachusetts have in common? Both governments are have cutting edge energy policies that acknowledge the drawbacks of biomass energy – showing that biomass energy is truly an emerging threat to forests worldwide, but that sane policy responses are possible.

All posts, Carbon emissions, Forests, Massachusetts, States

Biomass Electricity: Clean Energy Subsidies for a Dirty Industry

A new report gives the most comprehensive listing to date of biomass power facilties proposed around the country, and the taxpayer and ratepayer-funded incentives driving explosive growth in the biomass industry.

Air Pollution, All posts, Carbon emissions, Forests, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, States, Subsidies, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin

Massachusetts Rules Could Signal Major Reform of Biomass Power

The Massachusetts rules will require for first time anywhere in the world that renewable energy credits for biomass energy be granted based on a common sense, life cycle assessment of the carbon emissions of burning forest wood to generate electricity.

All posts, Carbon emissions, Massachusetts, States

Want to know what toxins you’re breathing? Easy visualization from the National Air Toxics Assessment

Using the Google Earth maps allowed us to see that census tracts surrounding the proposed Palmer Renewable Energy biomass plant in Springfield MA already have the highest combined respiratory and cancer risk in Western Massachusetts.

Air Pollution, All posts, Massachusetts, States

Air quality “Hazardous”, but MA determined to issue biomass pollution permit

April 12 was a “hazardous” day for air quality in western Massachusetts, yet it’s full speed ahead for the Palmer Renewable Energy plant in Springfield, which will be one of the largest emitters of particle pollution in the region.

Air Pollution, All posts, Massachusetts, States

State Poised to Increase Air Pollution in Springfield

When the dust settles from the public hearing on the Palmer Renewable Energy biomass plant in Springfield, MA, Hampden country will still be out of compliance with pollution standards for ozone, Springfield’s kids will still have asthma and elevated blood lead levels at twice the state average, and the city will still be experiencing high particle pollution. And that’s if they don’t build the plant.

Air Pollution, All posts, Massachusetts

Manomet didn’t go far enough

The Manomet study relies on a number of assumptions that minimize the calculation of net carbon emissions from biomass, meaning that actual emissions are likely significantly greater than the study concludes.

All posts, Carbon emissions, Massachusetts, States

Massachusetts Manomet Study: Biomass Worse Than Coal for 40 Years

The only independent, multi-stakeholder study of the carbon impacts of burning trees to generate electricity found that it would take 40 years of forest regrowth just to get to parity in carbon pollution with burning coal for those same four decades. To get to parity with natural gas would take almost a century.

All posts, Carbon emissions, Forests, Massachusetts, Reports