Miriam Kurland: Biomass plant bad for state

Published: 4/1/2021 11:57:17 AM

Springfield is already impacted by countless environmental and public health problems, including COVID-19. The last thing that is needed is a biomass plant spewing pollution into the air, worsening existing respiratory issues and darkening the future on this planet.

One in five children in Springfield has asthma, and the city received the title of “asthma capital of the U.S.” from the national Asthma and Allergy Association. Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) issued a terrible proposed amendments to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that would allow polluting wood-burning biomass power plants, like Palmer Renewable Energy’s proposed Springfield plant, to qualify for the same state renewable energy subsidies as wind and solar power.

This is unacceptable as biomass is neither clean or renewable. In fact half of the commercial logging in our own public forests are being destroyed for woody biomass. We need our forests for many things now, including as a carbon sink. If this rule change is adopted, Palmer could collect $13 million to 15 million in renewable energy credits each year, making the project economically viable.

While it is often promoted as a form of renewable energy, biomass burning actually generates more carbon dioxide than any fossil fuel. The plant will produce a huge amount of ash, 2,490 pounds per hour, which will add to air pollution The smokestack will emit 400,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide each year including: fine particulates that lodge deep in the lungs when inhaled; nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic chemicals, which are smog precursors; and hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, lead, other heavy metals, and hydrochloric acid.

These chemicals are linked to asthma, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Gov. Charlie Baker and DOER Commissioner Patrick Woodcock can withdraw their proposed rollbacks, preventing this plant from being built. We can invest in true clean, renewable energy. Massachusetts can continue to be a leader in renewable energy, with RPS regulations that are just and needed for a healthier planet.

These updates to the regulations could be finalized in the next few months, so we need to stop them as soon as possible. We ask Baker to withdraw his rollbacks to the RPS regulations and start cooperating with the people who live here and care about the future of our children, grandchildren and future generations.

Miriam Kurland



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