The toxic fine particulate matter and harmful air pollutants created by biomass power plants disproportionately impact low-income communities, communities of color and vulnerable populations due to the geographic locations of most plants. Recent studies have also revealed a link between higher levels of air pollution and higher death rates from COVID-19.
In 2012, Massachusetts adopted an ambitious and forward-thinking set of science-based standards that had to be met for wood-burning power plants to qualify as renewable energy. These new and uncompromising standards allowed for only a handful of small, highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) biomass plants to continue to qualify for renewable energy subsidies under the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), while many older, inefficient biomass power plants in Maine and elsewhere in New England were dropped from the program.
Recently, however, there have been efforts to systematically chip away at the 2012 standards to expand subsidies for woody biomass through Massachusetts’s clean energy programs, essentially rolling back health and environmental protections and undermining the commonwealth’s climate goals. New regulations make woody biomass eligible for the RPS, enabling biomass energy to be classified as renewable and forcing Massachusetts ratepayers to subsidize polluting biomass plants in Maine, New Hampshire and elsewhere. “H.3333/S.2197 – An Act to Prevent Biomass Energy to Protect the Air We Breathe” would strike out woody biomass from renewable energy statutes and make biomass plants ineligible for clean energy incentives.
Acting righteously requires us to treat the world with utmost respect. One midrashic account recounts how God showed Adam around the Garden of Eden and said, “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy my world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” By giving humankind dominion over the planet, a form of stewardship was created out of divine trust. Our relationship with the world, therefore, is sacred and should not be taken lightly. We must exercise the spiritual discipline necessary to guard our natural resources and protect the climate of our most precious planet.
JALSA and its members fundamentally believe that no one should have to inhale the harmful particles and gases that biomass facilities emit—particularly not those whose lives and health have been most affected by patterns of environmental racism. The Renewable Portfolio Standard should be used in support of truly clean, renewable energy—not unhealthy energy sources such as woody biomass. The state legislature must take swift action to block plans to use ratepayer dollars to prop up biomass plants.
You can help pass H.3333/S.2197 by contacting your state legislators and joining with others in legislative meetings. Passage of this bill is even more critical now, as the administration has recently finalized new rules expanding subsidies for biomass power plants over strong objections raised by state legislators and health and environmental advocates.
We must show strong, statewide support for ending renewable energy subsidies for polluting biomass energy. Click here for more information about H.3333/S.2197 and here for background on the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.
If you want to work with JALSA to put your Jewish values into action on this issue, or in other ways, contact JALSA legislative director David Albright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-227-3000.
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