Mass. groups blast biomass use to meet state Clean Power Plan goals 

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, February 13, 2015

Six Massachusetts environmental group sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy yesterday, expressing concern that the agency may treat biomass power as carbon-neutral under the Clean Power Plan.

Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe, who leads EPA’s air office, released a memo in November that suggested that biomass energy — power from wood and other plant-based materials — would count toward states’ renewable energy goals as EPA seeks to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s electric sector (E&ENews PM, Nov. 19, 2014).

Biomass backers say the energy source is carbon-neutral because the trees that are grown to provide the energy source absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, canceling out any emissions from the plant. Some environmental groups have criticized the assumption that biomass energy is low-carbon, saying the delay between emissions and carbon storage is too long to help slow climate change.

“This decision contradicts sound science and promotes burning forest wood for electric power production, which is exactly the wrong direction for our county’s renewable energy policy,” says the letter, signed by the heads of the Conservation Law Foundation, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, Environment Massachusetts, Mass Audubon, the Massachusetts Sierra Club and the Partnership for Policy Integrity.

In her memo, McCabe said the agency would condone “sustainably-derived” feedstocks, a term that was not specifically defined in the report released with the memo.

Massachusetts tightened its standards for biomass use in 2012 (ClimateWire, April 30, 2012).

Click here to read the letter.