Biomass electric power rules go away 35 towns in sector ‘crosshairs’ | Statehouse

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have enable the Baker administration know that they are not pleased with proposed polices that would efficiently shield environmental justice communities and bordering regions from new wood-burning electricity generation amenities although singling out just 35 towns as feasible plant hosts.

In April, the Baker administration introduced that its proposed updates to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Conventional polices would prohibit biomass projects from qualifying for the RPS system if they are located inside of an environmental justice neighborhood or inside five miles of an environmental justice group.

The newest version of that approach received a listening to just before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Electrical power on Friday, with Section of Electrical power Means Commissioner Patrick Woodcock detailing the proposed adjustments for lawmakers.

The RPS governs the raising amount of money of clean up electricity that utilities and municipal light plants will have to invest in just about every yr. Condition law needs that DOER make biomass facilities suitable for the RPS program and rules that have been in location given that 2012 make only efficient put together-warmth-and-power biomass vegetation qualified to market renewable energy credits into the RPS market.

But once just about every environmental justice community and its corresponding five-mile buffer was mapped out, about 90 % of the state’s land space was excluded.

That leaves just 10 percent of the condition — a extend of communities west of the Connecticut River and alongside the Connecticut border, a strip of coastline that runs by means of Cohasset, Scituate and Marshfield, and smaller shreds of many other towns — the place upcoming biomass services could be positioned and be qualified for incentives beneath the Baker administration’s plan.

“It doesn’t issue the place a facility is sited in Massachusetts or in other places, the science nonetheless claims no,” Sen. Jo Comerford said, referring to the truth that biomass generation pollutes additional than other resources like photo voltaic. “The logic here in these rules is tortured. A biomass plant cited extra than five miles absent from the closest environmental justice community is not any greener than a biomass plant in Springfield. The locale of the facility has never been a element in RPS course one particular eligibility. Course a person need to be reserved for the cleanest electrical power sources.”

In all, land in just 35 of the state’s 351 towns and towns would stay readily available for incentivized biomass facilities.

“These polices not only demonstrate environmental neglect, but they are also patently unfair towards these ‘exception’ communities who are remaining both focused for biomass siting and then are pressured to endure the obstructive and hazardous outcomes of this power generation,” Republican Sen. Patrick O’Connor, who signifies coastal places just south of Boston, wrote in a letter to DOER signed by 8 other lawmakers.

Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat, represents 17 of the 35 cities where by a biomass facility could even now qualify for state incentives and requested Woodcock whether or not his company was singling those people communities out or making an attempt to tacitly sign that the administration is not interested in biomass amenities.

“It would seem to be that this regulation is systematically pushing plants into quite particular locations. And, of system, ideal into my district, you could argue,” Hinds stated Friday. “And so I guess the question is, has DOER resolved to thrust biomass woody gas services into 35 towns intentionally, or is it creating a more substantial statement that we’re truly relocating absent from biomass as RPS eligible source of vitality?”

Woodcock instructed Hinds that DOER desires to be “cautious with biomass energy” but defended the state’s two present biomass facilities and prompt there could still be a place for them in the administration’s broader energy coverage.

“We undoubtedly do not imagine that it will be a important contribution to Massachusetts’ general portfolio,” the commissioner claimed. “I would notice even though, I’ve been doing the job within the Baker administration considering the fact that 2017. There are two services that are qualified for the common — the Seaman Paper facility [in Gardner] and also the Cooley Dickinson facility [in Northampton] — and I have not heard any problem since 2017 with people amenities at all. Those are the kinds of services that are suitable and I would really encourage the committee, as they’re wondering extended-term about these policies, to take a look at all those amenities.”

Woodcock stated that the proposed restrictions are expected to direct to a compact increase in biomass manufacturing regionally — out-of-condition services can qualify for the Massachusetts incentive program — but claimed the modifications proposed “are very not likely to make a new biomass plant financeable.”

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the committee, instructed Woodcock that it sounded to him like DOER was getting a position that “is considerably supportive of present biomass, but distinctly unenthusiastic and bearish about additional biomass.”

“Why really don’t we formalize what seems to be the casual and unofficial thrust of these proposed new regulations? Why leave 35 out of 351 municipalities in the crosshairs?” Barrett questioned, referring to a request O’Connor provided in his letter that Woodcock aid laws that would make all new in-condition biomass ineligible for point out incentives.

Woodcock explained he would “commit to doing work with this committee on wondering through what lengthy-term biomass procedures require to be implemented” as a research of the community health and fitness impacts of biomass amenities requested by the state’s hottest climate regulation will get underway but claimed it was “important to shift forward” with the rules to manage consistency among DOER packages.

He also informed lawmakers that the biomass rules were being written with a provision of the climate legislation signed earlier this yr that mandates an environmental report be conducted on any project that could impression air good quality proposed within just 5 miles of an environmental justice group.

“We are definitely making an attempt to reflect upon the Legislature’s operate in the local climate act and use that as a build going forward,” Woodcock said. “ As you know, I definitely would be willing to interact in discussions on unique language on proposed legislation.”

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