Update: Battle Over Massachusetts Biomass Subsidies

It’s a local, plentiful energy source, but environmentalists argue that biomass — wood chips or pellets — can’t be considered clean energy and shouldn’t be subsidized by the state as such. More than 70 people gathered at Holyoke Community College on Monday for the state’s last public hearing on plans to designate the burning of […]

It’s a local, plentiful energy source, but environmentalists argue that biomass — wood chips or pellets — can’t be considered clean energy and shouldn’t be subsidized by the state as such. More than 70 people gathered at Holyoke Community College on Monday for the state’s last public hearing on plans to designate the burning of fuel derived from trees as eligible for clean-energy subsidies.

The proposal would provide subsidies for “woody biomass” — in other words, the burning of wood chips or pellets in wood boilers. As part of a 2014 law backed by the logging industry, the state has included biomass boilers in its “Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard,” along with geothermal, solar thermal and other technologies. The Department of Energy Resources is now drafting regulations to implement that law.

State officials have said the inclusion of biomass is intended to provide an energy alternative to fossil fuels in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. Proponents of the rules say that when combined with sustainable forestry practices, biomass can be a renewable energy source that can compete with fossil fuels.

Environmentalists, however, cite research that shows biomass can produce more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. They have also raised concerns over the pollution created when burning biomass, and say the state’s proposed financial incentives may lead to the clear-cutting of forests.

“The commonwealth should not be allocating public funds for wood-burning, which benefits a few in the forest industry,” Janet Sinclair, of the group Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, said in a statement.

From the Greenfield Recorder: http://www.recorder.com/state-holds-its-biomass-hearing-11741923

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