THE BIOMASS MONITOR is the world's leading publication tracking the health and environmental impacts of "biomass" energy.

Editors - Josh Schlossberg, Rachel Smolker, and Mike Ewall

A publication of Energy Justice Network, Biofuelwatch, Florida Environmental Justice Network, and Florida League of Conservation Voters.

Are Dirty Energy Opponents NIMBY?
Proving Industry Wrong

(April 2014 - Vol. 5, issue 1


Are Dirty Energy Opponents NIMBY?

- by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

It’s typical for energy developers facing community resistance to proposed facilities to try to discredit opponents by calling them NIMBY (Not in My Backyard), steering the argument away from health and environmental impacts to simply one of aesthetics. Corporate profiteers argue that local opposition doesn’t have a problem with a given energy technology itself — so long as they don’t have to look at it.  

So, how far are dirty energy opportunists off base when they toss the NIMBY label around in an attempt to sway public opinion and influence government policy in regards to their pollution factories?

Industry Labels

Public Strategy Group’s focus is to give its corporate clients— including nuclear, bioenergy and natural gas corporations, along with offshore investment companies and Wal-Mart — “strategic advantage over their opponents in the public” and government by “countering community opposition.”

Company President Al Maiorino claims that “opponents may favor clean energy, however they don’t want it located anywhere they can see it.” Industry’s main talking point is that members of the public don’t actually have a problem with the concept of a biomass incinerator or natural gas-fired facility, simply its location.

Incinerators have such a stigma associated with them that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of NIMBY actually includes a specific mention, as “opposition to the locating of something considered undesirable (as a prison or incinerator) in one's neighborhood.”  A community is only NIMBY if it fights the siting of a facility without articulating a complete rejection of that form of energy.

In the case of mountain top coal removal, we frequently see public blowback at the site of extraction in Appalachia, along the thousands of miles of transportation routes across the country, and at the coal-fired power facilities themselves. This far-reaching opposition, from the source to the burners, has also recently popped up in regards to hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas. The end result is that the fossil fuel industry faces conflict wherever it turns.

More often than not, with some notable exceptions, the anti-fossil fuels movement tends to defy industry’s NIMBY slur by giving a thumbs down to the use of that dirty energy source entirely, no matter where it’s located.

Think Locally, Act Locally?

While fossil fuel opponents typically employ a local, regional, and national strategy, the majority of resistance to biomass energy occurs at the facility level only — due, in part, to communities simply having a limited amount of time and resources to expend.

However, on many occasions, communities fighting a proposed biomass incinerator have made the case that “biomass isn’t right” for their town — implicitly (and in some cases, explicitly) suggesting that another area would be better suited for the facility. In some cases, communities have successfully chased an incinerator developer out of town, only to have them set up shop in a poorer community a few dozen miles down the road, bringing up environmental justice concerns. 

So, what makes the biomass fight different from, say, other types of dirty energy resistance?... READ MORE


Vermont: The Little State that Could?

 - by Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch

I am fortunate to live in the tiny state of Vermont, a state that has boldly led the way on so many issues it's hard to list them all. We were the first to pass same-sex marriage and to take serious steps to make health care accessible to all. We outlawed billboards altogether and passed Act 250, a sophisticated mechanism for protecting the landscape against wanton development. That, in fact, led Vermont to be the last state in the nation to be colonized by Walmart. We were also the first state to ban fracking. We fought Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission long and hard demanding they shut down the dangerously rickety Yankee Nuclear power plant. Recently, at long last and against all odds, we "won" a semi-victory
on that front.

Now Vermont has taken another bold step: denying permission for development of a dirty biomass burning facility, deceptively referred to as the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project. 

That facility would have burned 450,000 tons of wood annually, harvested from the "Green Mountain" state's just barely recovering forests. The state's Public Service Board is required to review big development proposals and issue (or deny) a "certificate of public good" (CPG) in order to proceed with the project. In this case, the decision was that the facility was not a public good. Many biomass facilities around the country and the world have not won permits, or have been abandoned en route to development due to economic concerns. But Vermont may be the first to deny a permit on the basis of sound reasoning... READ MORE

Maryland Dumps Incineration

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

VICTORY!!  For a second year in a row, pro-incinerator legislation in Maryland was defeated.  This stealthy legislation was written by Covanta (the nation's largest trash incineration company) and would put Maryland on the path to burning nearly all of the waste that isn't recycled. 

The legislation takes the Renewable Portfolio Standard concept (which mandates a phase-in of renewable energy) and applies it to municipal solid waste (trash).  Without even mentioning incineration, this "Recycling and Landfill Diversion Portfolio Standard" would move the state toward increased recycling, but require that the remainder be diverted from direct dumping in landfills. Rather than move away from both landfills and incinerators, the bill would create the market for burning nearly all of the non-recycled waste in the state, before dumping the ash in landfills. This fits with efforts by many corporations and cities to hijack the concept of "zero waste" to make it mean "zero waste to landfill"— pushing incineration and pretending that the ash isn't then dumped in landfills.

In 2011, Maryland was the first state to bump trash incineration into Tier I of their Renewable Portfolio Standard, putting it in competition with wind power. This awful idea, pioneered in Maryland, is now being pushed in several other states. Please look out in your state for these covert attempts to promote incineration in the guise of recycling and "landfill diversion."

This bill in Maryland passed the Maryland House, but was stopped in the Senate when their Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted unanimously (11 to zero) to reject the bill. See for more information on this and other pro-incineration bills we worked to stop (all of which are dead for this year)... READ MORE

From the Editor

- by Josh Schlossberg, Editor

The biomass incineration industry is relentless in its pursuit to grub up every last taxpayer dollar to prop up its polluting smokestacks. The anti-biomass movement has become such a powerful force that industry is hiring professionals whose sole job is to discredit community opposition.

Industry, with the help of these propaganda firms, has exercised a form of rhetorical judo where its underlying motivation — selfishness — is projected on dirty energy opponents by claiming facility fighters have no problem with a particular energy source…so long as they don’t have to look at it.

The April issue of The Biomass Monitor focuses on the only way to deflect industry’s NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) slurs against our movement: by ensuring that resistance to a biomass energy facility includes a complete rejection of this obsolete form of dirty energy.

Join the Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign

The goal of the national Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign  is to unite the biomass truth movement to oppose any and all forms of air-polluting, climate-changing, forest-felling, and water-wasting biomass energy.

To sign the Energy Justice platform, join the Biomass Opponents email list, or learn more about the harmful health and environmental impacts of biomass energy, go to:
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