Biomass electrical power policies go away 35 towns in industry ‘crosshairs’ | Statehouse

Lawmakers from both equally sides of the aisle have permit the Baker administration know that they are not pleased with proposed polices that would efficiently protect environmental justice communities and surrounding regions from new wood-burning electrical power generation services even though singling out just 35 towns as feasible plant hosts.

In April, the Baker administration announced that its proposed updates to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard rules would prohibit biomass tasks from qualifying for the RPS application if they are located in an environmental justice neighborhood or inside 5 miles of an environmental justice neighborhood.

The hottest variation of that system acquired a listening to before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Electrical power on Friday, with Division of Vitality Means Commissioner Patrick Woodcock detailing the proposed improvements for lawmakers.

The RPS governs the raising volume of thoroughly clean power that utilities and municipal gentle crops ought to order every single 12 months. State regulation needs that DOER make biomass amenities eligible for the RPS plan and principles that have been in area considering that 2012 make only productive blended-warmth-and-power biomass plants qualified to sell renewable electricity credits into the RPS current market.

But as soon as every environmental justice group and its corresponding 5-mile buffer was mapped out, about 90 % of the state’s land space was excluded.

That leaves just 10 % of the state — a extend of communities west of the Connecticut River and alongside the Connecticut border, a strip of shoreline that runs by Cohasset, Scituate and Marshfield, and modest shreds of numerous other cities — the place long run biomass services could be situated and be eligible for incentives under the Baker administration’s plan.

“It does not make any difference in which a facility is sited in Massachusetts or somewhere else, the science however claims no,” Sen. Jo Comerford claimed, referring to the reality that biomass era pollutes a lot more than other resources like photo voltaic. “The logic here in these regulations is tortured. A biomass plant cited additional than 5 miles absent from the closest environmental justice local community is not any greener than a biomass plant in Springfield. The area of the facility has never been a issue in RPS class one particular eligibility. Class just one should really be reserved for the cleanest electricity sources.”

In all, land in just 35 of the state’s 351 cities and towns would continue being available for incentivized biomass amenities.

“These rules not only display environmental neglect, but they are also patently unfair in the direction of these ‘exception’ communities who are remaining each specific for biomass siting and then are forced to endure the obstructive and destructive repercussions of this electrical power generation,” Republican Sen. Patrick O’Connor, who represents coastal places just south of Boston, wrote in a letter to DOER signed by 8 other lawmakers.

Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat, signifies 17 of the 35 towns exactly where a biomass facility could continue to qualify for state incentives and requested Woodcock whether his company was singling those communities out or making an attempt to tacitly signal that the administration is not interested in biomass facilities.

“It would appear to be that this regulation is systematically pushing vegetation into really precise areas. And, of program, proper into my district, you could argue,” Hinds mentioned Friday. “And so I guess the problem is, has DOER resolved to force biomass woody gasoline services into 35 towns intentionally, or is it building a greater statement that we’re basically shifting away from biomass as RPS suitable resource of strength?”

Woodcock told Hinds that DOER needs to be “cautious with biomass energy” but defended the state’s two current biomass facilities and instructed there could however be a location for them in the administration’s broader energy policy.

“We undoubtedly do not believe that it will be a sizeable contribution to Massachusetts’ all round portfolio,” the commissioner said. “I would observe while, I have been operating within the Baker administration because 2017. There are two facilities that are qualified for the common — the Seaman Paper facility [in Gardner] and also the Cooley Dickinson facility [in Northampton] — and I haven’t listened to any problem because 2017 with these facilities at all. These are the styles of facilities that are suitable and I would encourage the committee, as they are pondering extended-time period about these guidelines, to check out all those facilities.”

Woodcock reported that the proposed rules are expected to lead to a little increase in biomass generation regionally — out-of-point out amenities can qualify for the Massachusetts incentive software — but claimed the improvements proposed “are very not likely to make a new biomass plant financeable.”

Sen. Michael Barrett, who co-chairs the committee, informed Woodcock that it sounded to him like DOER was using a situation that “is somewhat supportive of recent biomass, but distinctly unenthusiastic and bearish about added biomass.”

“Why don’t we formalize what seems to be the informal and unofficial thrust of these proposed new regulations? Why go away 35 out of 351 municipalities in the crosshairs?” Barrett requested, referring to a ask for O’Connor provided in his letter that Woodcock help laws that would make all new in-condition biomass ineligible for state incentives.

Woodcock explained he would “commit to doing the job with this committee on thinking through what extended-time period biomass guidelines will need to be implemented” as a analyze of the public health impacts of biomass amenities ordered by the state’s most up-to-date weather law will get underway but claimed it was “important to transfer forward” with the restrictions to keep consistency amongst DOER courses.

He also informed lawmakers that the biomass rules had been published with a provision of the weather law signed before this calendar year that mandates an environmental report be conducted on any undertaking that could influence air excellent proposed within 5 miles of an environmental justice community.

“We are unquestionably trying to replicate on the Legislature’s function in the local weather act and use that as a build moving forward,” Woodcock explained. “ As you know, I unquestionably would be inclined to interact in conversations on specific language on proposed legislation.”