fairy tale that we can incinerate trees and other “biomass” to produce
“clean and green” energy is one with a nasty ending: wasted tax dollars,
a hotter planet, and sick and dying Americans. Luckily, committed
grassroots activists are exposing this biomass greenwash for what it
truly is and some government regulators are starting to “get it.”
the federal level, the U.S. EPA proposes to require biomass
incinerators to comply with new controls for hazardous air pollutants –
but industry is calling foul, asking instead to emit dirtier air
pollution than coal. The EPA wants to hear from citizens about whether
biomass incineration should be considered “carbon neutral.” (Of course,
the answer is NO!) Make your voice heard on this important issue in
the “Take Action!” section of this month’s BIOMASS BUSTERS.
Anti-Biomass Lawsuit in Gainesville, FL
August 25, 2010
Citizens have mounted a legal challenge to a Florida State agency
approval of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center incinerator,
proposed by the Massachusetts-based American Renewables, LLC. The
citizen leading the coalition, former mayor of Gainesville, Dr. Thomas
Bussing, intervened to enter testimony in the trial to prevent harm to
human health and the environment from the incinerator, which would burn
trees to make electricity.
Ron Saff, a medical doctor from Tallahassee, FL who specializes in
asthma, testified that "the pollution from biomass plants causes asthma
and heart attacks, cancer, shortens lives and poses a health risk to
According to permit applications, air
pollution from the incinerator will include particulate matter,
including PM 2.5, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), acid gases,
sulfur compounds, PCBs, and dioxin-like compounds. The opponents' expert
testimony demonstrated that these toxins are a danger to children, will
be airborne and deposited on local residents and agricultural crops,
and that the incinerator will violate state laws prohibiting
objectionable odors, poses a risk of fires in the wood chip piles, and
will emit dangerous greenhouse gases.
Traverse City, MI to Vote on Biomass
July 15, 2010
Two petitions have been approved by Traverse City, Michigan giving
citizens a chance to vote on whether Traverse City Light & Power
(TCL&P) would operate under city control and an option to demand a
vote on any future proposed construction of power generating facilities,
including biomass incinerators.
petitions were circulated by a citizen coalition including former
Traverse City Mayor Margaret Dodd, following a TCL&P proposal for up
to four ten-megawatt tree-burning incinerators.
Fierce citizen opposition by groups such as Michigan Citizens for Energy, the Economy and Environment
had resulted in a TCL&P decision to "shelve" construction plans for
the incinerator back in June. The successful passage of these ballot
measures would ensure that any decisions regarding biomass incineration
in Traverse City will be made by citizens.
Arizona Incinerator Goes Bankrupt
July 9, 2010
The sole biomass incinerator in the state of Arizona, sited outside of
the north-central town of Snowflake, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
following a notice from Salt River Project to terminate its contract to
purchase power from the facility.
Biomass Greenwash in Washington
tree-burning biomass incinerators are proposed for Mason County,
Washington in the town of Shelton--a 60-megawatt incinerator proposed by
ADAGE and a 40-megawatt burner proposed by Simpson Timber Co.
From the Forest
Petition Filed with EPA Challenges "Carbon Neutrality" of Biomass
July 28, 2010 The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency claiming its recently released Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks
wrongly classifies forest biomass incineration as "carbon neutral." The
petition cites numerous recent scientific studies that demonstrate that
not only isn't burning forests for electricity carbon neutral, but is
in fact a significant source of greenhouse gas pollutants.
"Burning America's forests for energy isn't clean, isn't green and certainly isn't carbon neutral," said Center
attorney Kevin Bundy. "Biomass emits as much or more carbon dioxide
than coal, and forests can take decades or even centuries to pull that
carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere after being logged."
New York State Restricts Biomass August 2010
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released a
draft policy defining what would constitute "sustainably harvested"
forest biomass in order to qualify for carbon credits under the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
recent science demonstrating forest biomass emissions to be greater
than coal, RGGI regulations--encompassing 10 northeastern
states--consider "sustainably harvested" biomass as carbon neutral,
leaving each state to devise its own standards.
New York State
criteria claims forests must be "maintained in a forested state for a
time period of 100 years," accompanied by a forester-approved "timber
harvest plan," or certified by an entity like Forest Stewardship Council
(FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) [see photo below].
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) logging in Washington
Charcoal (aka biochar) is being touted as the next climate savior. An article published in Nature
argues that burning biomass to make charcoal and then burying it under
soils will sequester 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions, all without
interfering with food production, habitat or soil conservation! The
catch? To make the numbers work (hidden in the 40 pages of
supplementary materials), they include growing dedicated energy crops on
at least 200 million hectares of "abandoned and degraded" land and
converting an additional 170 million hectares of tropical grasslands to
"silvoculture" (woody shrubs for cow fodder instead of grass).
is a déjà vu for veterans of the biofuels debate, where a slew of
studies pronounced large tracts of land--in other people's
countries--available for growing crops to fuel our SUVs.
this conversion of land for biochar crops (over an area greater than
the continent of India), our knowledge about the impacts of biochar on
soils, climate, crops etc. is far too limited. Embracing global,
large-scale biochar at this stage would be a huge, risky experiment!
Meanwhile, the biochar enthusiasts have a new "protocol" for getting
their baby into the carbon markets...with an eye to providing offsets
for the Alberta tar sands extraction.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making new Clean Air Act rules to regulate greenhouse gases from industry smokestack emissions, like those of biomass and garbage incinerators.
Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) Renewable Energy Standard
Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering a renewable electricity
standard that would include biomass incinerators in legislation (S.
3663) to tighten up offshore drilling regulations.
Urge your U.S. Senator to insist that any renewable energy standards in Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act (S. 3663)NOT include the incineration of any form of biomass, construction & demolition debris, or trash. Find your Senator here: www.senate.gov(upper right hand corner of website).
Report on Pollution and Children's Health: "The Price of Pollution"
A new report "conservatively" estimates the true cost of childhood
diseases caused by environmental pollution in the state of Michigan to
be between $3.65 and $6.68 billion. The Price of Pollution, released by
the Michigan Network for Children's Environmental Health, a coalition of health and environmental organizations, and the Ecology Center,
measures direct and indirect costs to the state from childhood asthma,
lead pollution, pediatric cancer, and some neuro-developmental
"A substantial amount of solid evidence shows that
children are being harmed by environmental exposures to toxic
chemicals," Dr. Ted Schettler, a member of the Network, said in a
press release. "This report demonstrates that there is a cost not only
to children and their families, but also to the state from inaction.
Increased State and Federal efforts to protect children are long
July 22, 2010
Dr. Mark Roberts, a scientist promoting biomass incineration at a
public hearing for an incinerator proposed for Rothschild, Wisconsin was
Corporate Medical Director for BP (British Petroleum) until 2003.
Trashing the Climate
Trash Incinerator Sued by Connecticut
August 18, 2010
Waste-to-energy incinerator company Covanta Energy is being sued by
Connecticut State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for emitting twice
the legal limit of cancer-causing dioxins from its facility in
Wallingford, Connecticut. Dioxins are one of the most toxic chemicals
known to science.
of Environmental Protection Commissioner Amey Marrella said the lawsuit
"is sending a clear message that violating the state's environmental
laws will not be tolerated."
is the second time Covanta's Wallingford incinerator has exceeded legal
limits for dioxin in the past three years. In November 2009 Covanta
paid out a $355,000 settlement.
Efficiency Vermont is the nation's first ratepayer-funded energy efficiency utility providing energy efficiency services statewide. Efficiency Vermont provides
technical assistance and financial incentives to help Vermont
households and businesses reduce their energy costs with
energy-efficient equipment and lighting. Efficiency Vermont also provides energy-efficient approaches to construction and renovation.
1999, the Vermont Legislature passed a law creating the energy
efficiency utility. An energy efficiency charge on ratepayers' electric
bills provides the funds for delivery of energy efficiency services in
Vermont businesses and homeowners who have used Efficiency Vermont's
services to make cost-effective efficiency investments have saved more
than 660 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in annual electric energy.