Final Massachusetts Biomass Regulations Lead Nation, Draw Praise From Environmental Advocates | Conservation Law Foundation

Final Massachusetts Biomass Regulations Lead Nation, Draw Praise From Environmental Advocates

Ben Carmichael Ben Carmichael

Ben Carmichael, CLF, (617) 850-1743 or
James McCaffrey, Sierra Club, (617) 903-8440 or
Meg Sheehan, Biomass Accountability Project, (508) 259-9154 or
Mary Booth, PFPI, (917) 885-2573, or
Sami Yassa, NRDC, (415) 269-1355 or

BOSTON, MA  August 17, 2012 – Leading local, regional and national environmental organizations and activists applauded the Patrick administration for the final biomass regulations which take effect today, calling the new Massachusetts rules a model for the nation and a win for science-based policy.

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), the Biomass Accountability Project, the Partnership for Policy Integrity, Massachusetts Sierra Club, Mass Audubon, and the Natural Resources Defense Council today applauded the Patrick Administration for developing a nation-leading policy that sets a high bar for biomass-burning facilities to qualify for incentives under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Under the new rules, facilities that are particularly inefficient – such as traditional large biomass power plants that waste most of the heat generated by wood burning – no longer will qualify for ratepayer-funded incentives.

The groups called the new rules consistent with the state’s mandate to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and applauded the incorporation of science-based carbon accounting principles in determining eligibility for the incentives. The new rules require that biomass plants rely predominantly on “residues” rather than whole trees to demonstrate emissions reductions of at least 50 percent over 20 years as compared to natural gas. The groups said the rules were consistent with the findings of a 2010 state-commissioned study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, which cautioned that different biomass fuels have different impacts and need to be accounted for accordingly.

The groups also applauded the regulations’ requirement that fuels be sustainably harvested in order to protect forests’ critical role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, as well as to protect important ecosystems. One key element of the new requirements is that a portion of tops and limbs from harvested trees must be retained in the forests to replenish soil nutrients, provide habitat, and promote forest resilience.

Sue Reid, VP and Director, CLF Massachusetts, said, “With these new regulations, Massachusetts reinforces its leadership role in the clean energy revolution. The old rules seriously risked undermining the state’s ambitious climate targets by promoting projects that put more carbon pollution into the air. Recognizing those risks, the Patrick Administration has developed nation-leading rules that embrace the core principles of sound biomass policy: the new rules will promote far more efficient use of biomass fuel, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce risks to critical forest resources. We applaud the Administration for driving this science-based policy forward and hope it will become a model for other New England states and the rest of the country.”

“The new regulations prove grassroots activism works,” said Meg Sheehan, who led the 2010 effort by the Stop Spewing Carbon Campaign to get a question on the state-wide ballot on this issue. “The Patrick Administration listened to our call to change the law to stop wasting ratepayer money on subsidies for energy production that destroys forests and undermines climate change goals.” Sheehan continued, “These regulations will reduce ratepayer subsidies for dirty wood burning biomass incinerators that don’t deserve them. The biomass industry falsely claimed that burning trees for electricity was clean, green, and carbon neutral. The Patrick Administration’s leadership on this issue paves the way for other other governments to take action to adopt a biomass energy policy based on an objective assessment of the law and science, and we aim to help that happen.”

Mary Booth, Director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, said, “Renewable energy shouldn’t make climate change worse. By restricting subsidies to higher efficiency biomass facilities with lower net carbon emissions, the Patrick Administration has based renewable energy policy on sound science.”

James McCaffrey, Director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, said, “Massachusetts is a leader nationwide on renewables and energy efficiency, and is now the first in the nation to update its biomass energy incentive programs so they are truly green and aligned with the latest science. These new regulations will create jobs by driving innovation in the renewable energy sector while curbing CO2 emissions, raising efficiency standards, and preserving our finite forest resources.”

Jack Clarke, Mass Audubon’s Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, noted the importance of aligning the state’s energy and forest conservation strategies.  “These regulations help ensure that forests that provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and quality of life will not be over-harvested for an inefficient use.  The new standards promote the responsible use of wood as a renewable fuel, while helping to maintain forests’ capacity to store carbon and provide a natural landscape that is healthy and resilient.”

“The new Massachusetts regulations set the standard for the rest of the nation,” said Sami Yassa, Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The science now shows that not all biomass is created equal; burning whole trees generates more carbon pollution compared to fossil fuels such as coal.  Hopefully other states and the EPA will follow the Massachusetts model and reward only clean forms of biomass fuel.”

CLF, the Biomass Accountability Project, Partnership for Policy Integrity and MA Sierra Club are among the leading voices from the environmental, clean energy and grassroots activist communities who worked together to press for this favorable policy outcome. Mass Audubon, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Tim Searchinger of Princeton University and Bill Moomaw of Tufts and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are but a few of the dozens of individuals and organizations who lent instrumental input to the policy-making process.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that preserve natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in 1966, CLF is a non-profit, member-supported organization with offices in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The Biomass Accountability Project (BAP) is a national grassroots organization dedicated to research, education, and outreach about the fiscal, health and climate impacts of biomass combustion. Stop Spewing Carbon Campaign, an affiliate of BAP, is a Massachusetts-based citizen effort, responsible for the 2010 voter ballot initiative that would have reduced subsidies for biomass incinerators.

The Partnership for Policy Integrity is a science-based advocacy organization that provides scientific and legal analysis to local, state and national groups on impacts from “false energy solutions” such as biomass power plants that rely on forest harvesting for fuel. 

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots non-profit environmental organization with 20,000 members in Massachusetts and more than 1 million members and supporters nationwide dedicated to the preservation, protection, and exploration of the earth’s natural environment.

 Mass Audubon works to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife. Together with more than 100,000 members, we care for 35,000 acres of conservation land, provide school, camp, and other educational programs for 225,000 children and adults annually, and advocate for sound environmental policies at local, state, and federal levels.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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