Update, December 2022: In 2021, a permit needed to build the Palmer biomass plant was revoked by state officials. Palmer appealed that decision in an effort to have it overturned. Last month, Palmer lost that appeal. We’re revisiting our 2021 conversation with Tanisha Arena, executive director of Arise for Social Justice, about why this fight… Continue reading How Many Times Must a Community Say No?
“Burning wood for electricity is a bad idea to begin with and building a biomass plant in a residential neighborhood is just evil,” said Johannes Epke, Staff Attorney at CLF. “The Department of Environmental Protection was right to revoke this permit the first time around, and the appeals office has made the right call today. We will continue our piece of this fight to protect air quality in Springfield by representing the City Council in Land Court in opposition to this facility.”
“This new law takes some great steps on biomass and offshore wind, but it’s sorely lacking when it comes to environmental justice,” said Staci Rubin, Vice President of Environmental Justice at CLF. “For too long, these communities have been overburdened and overlooked when it comes to air quality, access to transit, and toxic pollution. We need to put a much larger focus on protecting EJ neighborhoods and phasing out fossil fuels once and for all when the legislature reconvenes.”
“Wood-burning power plants spew harmful emissions that poison the air in surrounding communities,” said Staci Rubin, Vice President of Environmental Justice at CLF. “They worsen asthma and other respiratory conditions and set us back in reaching our mandatory climate goals. Industrial biomass plants don’t belong in any community, and it’s time for the Commonwealth to stop providing subsidies for toxic power that is hardly renewable.”
Massachusetts has taken a huge step forward in ensuring that communities have a say in what happens in their neighborhoods. It’s long past time we stop forcing low-income communities and communities of color to bear the burdens of polluting infrastructure. But that doesn’t mean we simply move the pollution elsewhere. Wood-burning power plants do not belong in anyone’s community.
“Dirty, industrial biomass pollutes our neighborhoods and has no place in our clean energy future,” said Kirstie Pecci, Interim Director of CLF’s Environmental Justice program. “Massachusetts residents deserve clean air and a livable future. The Commonwealth should not subsidize power plants or incinerators that will harm communities already bearing the brunt of local pollution and climate impacts.”
“The last thing the asthma capital of the U.S. needs is a plant spewing air pollution and further imperiling public health,” said Caitlin Peale Sloan, Interim Director of CLF Massachusetts. “Springfield residents made their opposition to this polluting plant clear, and DEP officials have handed them a win today. The fact is that burning biomass is neither clean nor renewable and it should be left in the past with fossil fuels.”
Biomass developers are pushing for state policy changes that would allow their plants to emit more air pollution, underreport their climate impacts, and take families’ and businesses’ money while harming the health of our communities. CLF is joining Springfield residents and other local groups in fighting back.
Springfield, alongside community and environmental organizations like CLF, has been fighting this proposed biomass plant for years. We set the fight aside in 2017 when Palmer Renewable Energy, the company behind the proposal, paused its plans for construction. But now the company is back, hoping that its efforts to weaken state policy will bring its proposal back to life.