Governor Baker Must Sign the Climate Bill
SCJC Groups and Legislators Applaud Biomass Provisions in Climate Bill & Call on Governor to Sign Immediately
August 3, 2022
Groups and Legislators Applaud Biomass Provisions in Climate Bill and Call on Governor Baker to Sign Immediately
Climate justice advocates today applauded Massachusetts lawmakers for their bold action passing climate legislation that eliminates renewable energy subsidies for wood-burning power plants, and for standing firm against an 11th hour proposal by Governor Baker that would have gutted this measure.
They were joined by Sen. Mike Barrett and Rep. Jeff Roy, who negotiated the climate bill; Sen. Eric Lesser, Sen. Adam Gomez, Rep. Jay Livingstone and Rep. Orlando Ramos, who sponsored the original biomass legislation; and Jesse Lederman, Springfield City Council President, in calling on Governor Baker to sign the climate bill into law.
“We are so grateful to Speaker Mariano, President Spilka, Chairman Barrett, Chairman Roy, and all our other champions in the House and Senate for taking this important step, especially Senators Lesser, Gomez, and Representatives Ramos and Livingstone, who led the way,” said Susan Theberge, co-founder of Climate Action Now. “It is inspiring to see our state legislators stand up for the climate and once again take meaningful action. As the climate crisis escalates we call on Governor Baker to do the right thing and sign this bill into law as soon as possible.”
The climate bill, H.5060, An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, removes woody biomass from the definition of “renewable energy” in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and clarifies that wood-burning power plants cannot sell renewable energy credits in Massachusetts. The bill exempts a handful of small facilities that are currently in the program. Governor Baker had sought to create a loophole for all biomass power plants constructed prior to 2022. There are dozens of old and polluting biomass power plants across the Northeast that currently do not qualify for subsidies under Massachusetts’ existing RPS, but could become eligible under the Baker Administration’s biomass rule changes that will go into effect later this summer unless this law is enacted.
“The legislature is stepping up at a critical time to stop the Baker Administration from finalizing rules that will force ratepayers to subsidize polluting wood-burning power plants across the Northeast,” said Laura Haight, from the Pelham-based Partnership for Policy Integrity. ”Removing woody biomass from the definition of renewable energy is an historic step, and assures that our resources are directed toward real climate solutions. After three years of grassroots efforts fighting this rule change, we urge Governor Baker to respect the will of the people and the legislature and allow this bill to become law.”
“Springfield has been an epicenter in the battle against biomass power,” said Springfield Climate Justice Coalition member Naia Tenerowicz. “Our community has been fighting for 15 years to stop Palmer Renewable Energy from building a commercial biomass power plant in one of Springfield’s environmental justice neighborhoods, which would have increased air pollution in a community already overburdened with polluted air and respiratory illness. Eliminating renewable energy subsidies for all wood-burning power plants is an important step towards the swift and just transition to truly clean, green, and renewable energy that is so urgently needed in the face of the climate emergency.”
“Funny thing about politics. People think good policy doesn’t count for much, but it does,” said Senator Michael J. Barrett (D-Lexington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “The communities’ take on biomass was not only just, it was also right, and that has brought it a long way.”
"While I appreciate the Administration's helpful technical edits that clarify intent, improve terminology, and optimize policy frameworks, I am deeply grateful to the Speaker and the Senate President for standing firm in rejecting attempts to weaken provisions in the bill, including removing biomass from the RPS," said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D- Franklin), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. "The Governor has an incredible choice to make to sign or veto the climate bill and we certainly hope that he embraces the compromises in this legislation like all of us have already done."
"Woody biomass pollutes our air, hurts our planet, and harms the health of our communities,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow). “Removing RPS subsidies for woody biomass is not only a major victory for our state’s transition to clean, renewable energy, but it’s also a victory for families living near the proposed 35-megawatt biomass-fired power plant in Springfield. A tremendous thank you to the advocates who sounded the alarm from the very beginning and to the local officials, organizations, and residents who fought alongside us on this long effort.”
“There is no need for us to promote this polluting energy source in our state,” said Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston). “I am proud to work with my fellow bill sponsors, legislative colleagues, and climate advocates to keep it out of Massachusetts’ clean energy programs. I thank Speaker Mariano, Senate President Spilka, Chair Jeff Roy, and the rest of the conferees for including this in the bill we just sent to the Governor.”
“I believe the victory over the Palmer Renewable Energy Plant back in 2021 spoke to how I feel about harmful woody biomass – it’s not welcome here,” said Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). “Our communities, especially those that are designated environmental justice communities, needed us to fight for them in the legislature by passing the climate conference committee bill. This legislation will allow our communities to breathe easier, our children to grow up and flourish in cleaner environments, and it will bring us closer to the renewable energy goals the Commonwealth has set.”
“Massachusetts taxpayers should not be subsidizing these harmful biomass incinerators,” said Rep. Orlando Ramos (D-Springfield). “I thank my colleagues for supporting this initiative, and I hope no other community in the Commonwealth has to go through what Springfield went through.”
"We know first hand in Springfield the threat biomass polluters pose to the health and safety of our communities,” said Springfield City Council President Jesse Lederman. “The legislature’s action to ensure our public energy dollars are not subsidizing those polluters is an important step to ensure other communities don’t face the type of threat Springfield has, and can turn our full attention to transitioning to clean and renewable forms of energy."
“This effort goes back to 2008, when citizens in western Massachusetts came together to oppose several large biomass plants that were proposed in Springfield, Greenfield and Russell,” said Janet Sinclair of Greenfield-based Concerned Citizens of Franklin County. “Burning trees is harmful to our lungs and the planet and should play no role in our state’s clean energy future.The science is clear. And we think the public is clear on this too. Funding biomass projects is a bad idea. For Governor Baker, signing this bill is the right thing to do.”
More than one hundred groups, elected officials, and countless individuals across the state have called on the Legislature and Governor Baker to end subsidies for woody biomass energy. For more information go to www.notoxicbiomass.org and www.pfpi.net.
SCJC Urges MA Legislature to Ban Biomass Subsidies
July 7, 2022
The Springfield Climate Justice Coalition is calling on the Massachusetts Legislature to block new rules advanced by the Baker Administration that would promote more wood-burning biomass energy throughout the Northeast. The controversial regulations are likely to be finalized this fall, just months before Governor Baker leaves office.
SCJC sent a letter today to House and Senate members who are racing to negotiate a climate and energy bill before the legislative session ends on July 30th. The Senate proposal includes key provisions advanced by Springfield legislators Senator Eric Lesser, Senator Adam Gomez, and Representative Orlando Ramos and supported by the entire Springfield legislative delegation, that would end Massachusetts’ renewable energy subsidies for woody biomass energy.
“We can’t afford to waste more time or money on false climate solutions like burning trees for energy,” SCJC wrote in a letter to the conference committee. “We are in a climate emergency. Springfield needs support from our state government in order to conduct a swift and just transition to truly clean, green, and renewable energy, striving towards a future of energy democracy.”
SCJC is urging the conference committee to remove subsidies for burning woody biomass from all of Massachusetts’ ratepayer-funded renewable energy programs: the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, and the new Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standard for municipal light plants.
The No Toxic Biomass campaign is hosting a statewide call-in day today urging the conference committee to make a “clean sweep” and end all renewable energy subsidies for burning wood.
Senate Bill Would Ban New Biomass Subsidies
April 8, 2022
Breaking news: The Massachusetts Senate has advanced a sweeping new climate policy bill that would stop Governor Baker's biomass subsidies in their tracks and protect Massachusetts ratepayers.
S2819, An act driving climate policy forward, includes priority provisions supported by the No Toxic Biomass campaign.
The legislation would end subsidies for woody biomass in MA’s two main renewable energy programs, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and the Alternate Energy Portfolio Standard (i.e. wood-burning electricity and wood-burning heat). The bill applies to existing biomass facilities as well as new ones, with an exception for any units that are currently enrolled in these programs.
The Senate is expected to debate this bill during the week of April 11th. The bill is expected to pass, but significant advocacy will be needed to preserve the biomass provisions of this legislation in the Senate and to ensure the House/Senate conference committee adopts these provisions.
Don't wait. Contact your legislators to support this bill and ensure these provisions stay in the final bill.
Read more about this critical legislation here.
Upcoming Hearing on Biomass Regulations!
March 27, 2022 (hearing on March 29)
It’s deja vu all over again in Massachusetts. The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has announced yet another public comment period on its plans to roll back Massachusetts’ science-based standards for woody biomass energy. The new rules would allow dozens of polluting biomass power plants across New England to qualify for ratepayer subsidies through the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS).
If all this sounds eerily familiar to you, you’re right. These are largely the same rule changes that DOER announced last April, that were debated before the Legislature last July, and which were expected to be finalized last November. But along the way, DOER took shortcuts with the public review process, so Secretary of State Bill Galvin has required DOER to do it all over again. No problem – we’re all getting good at this!
Hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual citizens have spoken out against these rule changes repeatedly since they were first proposed in 2019. Absolutely nobody wants them – nobody except the biomass industry and their cronies in the Baker Administration, that is.
Great news… progress on biomass!
February 1st, 2022
Thanks to all your support, the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE) Committee voted favorably last week in support of our biomass bill, S. 2197. The bill will now proceed to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration. The companion House bill, H.3333, received an extension, meaning that, while it has not yet advanced, legislators can still sign on in support.
S.2197 and H.3333 will remove incentives and subsidies for polluting biomass energy from our state’s clean energy programs. The biomass industry is working hard behind the scenes to kill the bill. But while they may have deep pockets, they don’t have what we have: people power!
We need to act because Governor Baker is trying to roll back Massachusetts’ renewable energy standards to allow large, polluting wood-burning power plants like Palmer to collect millions of dollars per year in renewable energy subsidies funded by Massachusetts ratepayers.
Let's keep up the momentum to stop biomass subsidies.
November 11th, 2021
UPDATE (3/7/2022): PFPI has learned that DOER's regulations were improperly noticed, and the DOER must again hold hearings on the proposal. The DOER has scheduled a hearing for March 23, 2022. Register for the virtual hearing here.
We’ve got bad news, and an urgent call for action.
Despite vigilant opposition by community organizations, environmental advocates, and legislators, Governor Baker has pushed forward changes to the state clean energy policies - the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) - that will subsidize biomass.
With these new regulations, Massachusetts ratepayers will fund incentives for old, polluting biomass plants, primarily facilities in Maine and New Hampshire, under the guise that they are producing clean energy.
Here’s the good news: legislation that has been heard by state’s Telecommunications, Utility and Energy committee (An act to prevent biomass energy to protect the air we breathe – H.3333/S.2197) would strip biomass from the RPS and prevent MA ratepayer dollars from subsidizing inefficient, out of state biomass plants. This legislation must be given a favorable report by the legislature and brought to a floor vote as soon as possible.
Be a climate champion: urge your legislators to stop biomass pollution! If you’ve already emailed your state representative and senator, follow up with a phone call. You can also find a list of key legislative leaders to contact here.
Baker, DOER advance bad biomass regulation: Contact Your Legislators!
September 9th, 2021
Following its July oversight hearing, the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committee will be reviewing biomass legislation, including one of our supported bills, on September 13th, 2021 at 1:30 PM. Show up or submit testimony for S.2197/H.3333, which removes woody biomass burning altogether from Massachusetts' renewable energy programs
Sign up to testify by filling out this form by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 10th. Once registered, you will receive further instruction on how to participate virtually.
Written testimony can be submitted via email to Magda Garncarz at firstname.lastname@example.org and Dina Nathanson at email@example.com. The deadline to submit written testimony is Monday, September 13, 2021 by 5:00 p.m. When submitting written testimony, please use the following document title format:
Bill# - Your Organization’s Name – Support
Example: S2197/H333 – No Toxic Biomass – Support
State legislators are clearly paying attention to this issue, thanks largely to the thousands of citizens from Springfield and across the state voicing their concerns to them. Tell the legislature:
These bills are necessary to protect public health
Subsidizing woody biomass goes against Massachusetts’ legally binding climate commitments
Ratepayer dollars shouldn’t fund pollution here or elsewhere
Public Hearing on Biomass Bills on September 13th
Public Hearing on Proposed RPS Regulation Changes Announced for July 30th
July 28th, 2021
The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committee will be conducting a virtual public hearing on the Baker administration’s proposed biomass rule changes this Friday, July 30th at 10 AM.
We won this public hearing because of your support and advocacy. Our collective efforts, including the 80+ groups that stepped up on short notice to sign our letter asking the TUE Committee to hold this hearing, were key to our success.
As noted in the hearing announcement, oral testimony is by invitation only. The advocacy community has been given a limited number of slots, and PFPI and members of the No Toxic Biomass campaign have provided names to the TUE committee. However, anyone can attend (virtually) and submit written testimony!
We are urging the TUE Committee to reject DOER’s amendments that would expand renewable energy incentives for wood-burning biomass power plants and roll back critical public health and environmental protections.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Attend the TUE hearing this Friday: Strong (virtual) turnout at the hearing will demonstrate to the legislature that we are watching closely. The live stream of the public hearing may be viewed under the Hearings & Events section of the Massachusetts legislature's website.
Submit Written Comments: Even a short personal note goes a long way with legislators! Written testimony can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and Samuel.Anderson@masenate.gov by Monday, August 2nd at 5 pm. Ask the TUE Committee to reject DOER’s proposed rule changes that expand renewable energy incentives for wood burning power plants and to recommend expanding protections for environmental justice communities. For more talking points see below.
Contact your State Senator and Representative: Ask them to support and co-sponsor two bills endorsed by the No Toxic Biomass campaign:
S.2186/H.3362 prohibits polluting power plants from receiving RPS funds if they are located in, or within 5 miles of an environmental justice community
S.2197/H.3333 removes woody biomass burning altogether from Massachusetts' renewable energy programs
For more information about these bills and to find out who your state legislators are, click here.
Social Media: Please use the #BakerNoBiomass hashtag for any social media posts and link to the NoToxicBiomass.org campaign website.
DOER is proposing sweeping changes that will allow inefficient and polluting wood-burning biomass power plants to once again qualify for renewable energy incentives in Massachusetts.
The Baker administration’s changes roll back important environmental and public health protections adopted in 2012 that make Massachusetts’ RPS standards the strongest in the nation.
Biomass power plants are not “clean energy” - they emit large quantities of harmful air pollution and are damaging to our climate and our forests.
Wood-burning power plants emit more carbon dioxide pollution out their stacks than coal or natural gas plants per megawatt of energy produced.
The new provision prohibiting biomass power plants from qualifying for the RPS if they are located in or within 5 miles of an environmental justice community is a positive step and should be expanded to include all combustion technologies that are covered in the RPS.
These regulations will allow existing inefficient biomass power plants in Maine, New Hampshire and elsewhere to collect millions of dollars in renewable energy subsidies paid for by Massachusetts residents through their electric bills.
Massachusetts ratepayers want to support clean renewable energy, not dirty biomass plants!
Statement by the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition on DOER’s Proposed RPS Rule Changes
April 16, 2021
We are gratified that the Baker Administration is finally listening and responding to the widespread public opposition to putting a polluting wood-burning power plant in an environmental justice community that has been named the “asthma capital of the country.”
If adopted, these rule changes will ensure that the Palmer Renewable Energy biomass plant proposed in East Springfield will not be able to qualify for millions in renewable energy subsidies in Massachusetts. We’re thrilled to see these protections for environmental justice communities included in DOER’s new RPS regulations; for far too long Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities have been disproportionately targeted as sites for toxic and polluting facilities.
This is a second win for the Springfield community, following MassDEP’s April 2nd decision to revoke the air quality permit for the Palmer plant.
As we celebrate a major step forward for the people of Springfield who have been fighting this plant for more than 12 years, and for environmental justice communities across the state, we want to be clear that biomass does not belong anywhere in the Commonwealth’s clean energy future. We are concerned that DOER’s proposal includes loopholes that would allow existing polluting biomass power plants throughout the Northeast to qualify for rate-payer funded renewable energy credits in Massachusetts.
The Springfield Climate Justice Coalition is committed to continuing to work toward eliminating dirty biomass altogether as a source of energy. No matter where they are sited, biomass power plants pump out health-harming air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
April 2, 2021: An important WIN and... we're not out of the woods yet
On Friday, April 2, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officially revoked the Final Plan Approval necessary for the construction of the Palmer Renewable Energy (PRE) proposed 42-mW biomass electricity generating plant.
The DEP decision provides important momentum in our efforts to stop the PRE plant, but we are not out of the woods yet. This plant has been vigorously opposed for 12 years and has earned the nickname 'zombie incinerator' for its uncanny ability to be revived after apparently fatal blows. We must keep up a vigilant campaign in case PRE tries to resuscitate its proposal by reapplying for a new project permit.
In addition, Governor Baker’s Department Of Energy Resources continues to push a rollback of rules that would qualify biomass energy to receive ratepayer subsidies that are intended for true clean energy alternatives like wind and solar. If they are successful, this regressive rule change could not only give the PRE plant new life but encourage development of other inefficient and polluting biomass plants in the state.
Now, more than ever, it's important that we keep up the pressure to make sure that PRE and other biomass plants are not allowed to pollute Environmental Justice communities - or any communities- in MA!