Burlington to Move Forward with Polluting Wood-Fired Heat Plans

City council approves McNeil effort

A pile of wood chips, increasing in height as it continues towards the right. A vehicle tire is behind it.

City council approves McNeil biomass effort

November 21, 2023 (MONTPELIER, VT) – Burlington’s city council has voted 6-4 in favor of a plan to capture steam from the McNeil wood-fired power plant and use it to heat the UVM Medical Center. The $42 million proposal would extend the life of the polluting plant for years to come. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) released the following statement in response.

“It’s plain and simple: burning wood pollutes our air and worsens the climate crisis,” said Elena Mihaly, Vice President of CLF Vermont. “McNeil is a dirty facility that’s approaching the end of its life, and this proposal will give it a lifeline to pollute for years to come. From a climate perspective, we have no choice but to move past burning wood for electricity in favor of clean energy like wind and solar.”

Burning trees on a large scale for heat and energy is inefficient and worsens the climate crisis. This proposal aims to keep the McNeil plant in business by piping captured heat to buildings in Burlington. Project developers still must obtain an Act 250 state land use permit for this project to advance.

CLF experts are available for further comment.