Sharon Farmer: Climate bill legislation should address inclusion of biomass

  • Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg, center in blue, joins other young climate activists Friday for a climate strike outside the White House in Washington. AP

Published: 9/30/2020 10:31:31 AM

On Aug. 6 of this year, a joint Massachusetts Senate-House conference committee was appointed to reconcile the state’s House and the Senate Climate Bills (H. 4912 and S. 2500). The committee, consisting of state Sens. Michael Barrett, Cynthia Creem and Patrick O’Connor and state Reps. Thomas Golden, Patricia Haddad and Brad Jones, is still deliberating.

There are many excellent components to the two bills. For instance, the House bill would legislate our nation’s first incentives for installing heat pumps in public housing; in the past, such incentives have favored more prosperous home owners. That provision (section 14) should remain in the final bill. And the Senate bill would lead to the adoption of a net-zero building code “within one year of passage of this act.”

Unfortunately, however, the House bill incorrectly includes biomass fuel on its list of “noncarbon emitting” sources of energy for electrical plants. Biomass, in fact, produces more carbon dioxide than does coal, and it contributes large quantities of particulate matter — the kind that causes asthma — to the air.

Not only that, but Palmer Renewable is continuing with its attempts to build a biomass facility in Springfield, which is the asthma capital of the U.S. Such a facility, whose realization would be greatly assisted by the definition of biomass as noncarbon emitting, would totally undermine the general intent of the House and Senate bills.

Along with the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, The League of Women Voters of Northampton Area — whose membership includes Springfield — supports a strong climate bill. To that end, we encourage citizens of the Pioneer Valley to write the members of the Congressional Conference Committee urging them to eliminate the inclusion of biomass fuel on its list of “noncarbon emitting” sources of energy.

Sharon Farmer

Holyoke

The writer is a member of the League of Women Voters Northampton Area.



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