Demand Letter to Governor Baker from Springfield area organizations

Dear Governor Baker,

 

We come to you representing the people of Springfield who have fought for over twelve years to prevent construction of the Palmer Renewable Energy company’s wood-burning biomass plant proposed to be built in East Springfield. We demand that you withdraw the Department of Energy Resources’ proposed amendments to the Renewable Portfolio Standard that would allow inefficient and dirty biomass power plants like the Palmer plant to qualify as renewable energy in Massachusetts and collect millions of dollars in subsidies each year.

 

Your proposed rule changes will make the Palmer plant economically feasible, forcing ratepayers to subsidize a dirty power plant that will pollute our air, make us sick from asthma, chronic lung disease and vascular disease, and contribute to the climate crisis that threatens us all.

 

One in five of Springfield’s children suffer from asthma. For two years in a row Springfield was designated the Asthma Capital of the Country by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, in no small part due to the polluted air that triggers the disease. The Palmer plant would further spew particulate matter, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, carcinogens and heavy metals to be breathed by residents of surrounding low-income, diverse, environmental justice neighborhoods in Springfield, forcing more emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and premature deaths for our family members and friends. Recent health studies have shown that low-income communities with greater particulate matter pollution have a higher death rate from Covid-19.

 

Biomass power plants are too expensive to compete with other sources of electricity generation, and so require either our rate-payer subsidies or artificial markets to survive financially. When in 2019 the state first promoted changing the Renewable Portfolio Standard to allow inefficient biomass power plants like Palmer to qualify, over 200 people flooded the Springfield hearing, protesting giving our money to create this public health hazard. Further, testimony repeatedly referenced the Commonwealth-sponsored Manomet Study which found that net carbon dioxide emissions from biomass plants, even when burning wood waste residues, exceed oil or gas-fired power plants for at least thirty years; this at a time, when international climate scientists agree we need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by 2030.  Plus, we need more trees to capture and store excess carbon from the atmosphere. To add woody biomass power to renewable energy choices is to defy science and to contribute to, not mitigate, the climate crisis.

 

We are entering a new era in our state and federal approach to the battle against pollution and climate change. Policy-makers from Boston to Washington are recognizing that we face a climate emergency, that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut immediately and the transition to clean energy must be viewed and achieved using the lens of social justice. Communities like Springfield who have suffered most and longest, while contributing the least to the climate crisis, must be relieved of the public health burden we have borne and must benefit, not suffer, from a real clean energy transition.

 

Your proposed amendments violate both principles: inefficient biomass plants will contribute to the climate crisis and the Springfield plant they enable will inflict environmental and climate injustice on our residents. On behalf of the residents of Springfield and all other towns in the future subject to the biomass threat, we request that you immediately withdraw the RPS biomass amendments. We further request that you and Secretary Woodcock meet with us in Springfield so that you can better understand the threat that your policy changes pose to our community.

 

Sincerely,

 

Springfield Climate Justice Coalition

Springfield No One Leaves 

Environmental Justice Team First Church of Christ Longmeadow

Extinction Rebellion Western Massachusetts

Live Well Springfield 

Western Mass. Medicare for All

The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice

Mass Forest Rescue

Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield

Pioneer Valley Project

Wendell State Forest Alliance

Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts 

The Enviro Show

Partnership For Policy Integrity

Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM)

Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals

Decarcerate WMass

Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition

Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts

Indian Orchard Citizens Council

Concerned Citizens of Springfield 

Environmental Justice Team First Church of Christ Longmeadow

Community Action Works

Social Justice Commission (Episcopal Diocese of Western MA)

Pioneer Valley Workers Center

Sunrise Hampden County

First Church of Christ Longmeadow, MA

Climate Action Now (Western Mass)

East Springfield Neighborhood Council

Western New England University Sunrise Hub

Pioneer Valley Mothers Out Front

Arise for Social Justice

Keep Springfield Beautiful 

Gardening the Community

Western Mass Science for the People

Greater Springfield Campaign Nonviolence

Green Team, Jewish Community of Amherst

New North Citizens Council

Women on the Vanguard, Inc.

Climate Code Blue

Sunrise Amherst

Pine Point Community Council

SEED

Armoury Quadrangle Civic Association