Massachusetts pro-biomass coalition advocates for positive change

By Lisa Gibson | June 30, 2011

In the face of loud opposition in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a coalition advocating for the use of millions of tons of the state’s biomass has emerged.

The Coalition for Biomass Energy for MASS has a simple goal: convince Gov. Deval Patrick and the state legislature that biomass in the form of construction and demolition waste, forest residues and other materials, should be used in-state to produce energy. “We’re going to try as hard as we can to make this happen,” said Mike Camara, the coalition’s passionate chairman.

Camara organized the group just within the past few months, eager to reverse policy recently passed by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. The coalition is an offshoot of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Solid Waste Management Association, which Camara also chairs. “We quickly organized this group trying to make a change here,” he said.

Under pressure from numerous anti-biomass organizations, the DOER crafted renewable portfolio standard (RPS) qualifications in May that all but eliminate biomass power from being eligible for Renewable Energy Certificates (for more information click here). The regulation puts several biomass power plants under development in a tough spot. “I think they don’t understand the need for those facilities,” Camara said. “We’re going to continue putting the pressure on and expand the pressure.”

Camara said his goal is to put 2,000 to 3,000 letters on the governor’s desk that communicate the public’s desire to use Massachusetts’ 2.5 million tons of biomass, instead of shipping it out of state. Construction and demolition debris processing facilities already send material to biomass plants in Maine and Canada, he said, as well as cement kilns in Pennsylvania. “I think it’s wrong to be shipping any of this wood out of state,” he emphasized. “I think these facilities should be built to use it here. I think our governor should be ashamed.”

Starting in September, Camara will focus on crafting letters to legislators, recruiting the help of hauling, recycling, and demolition workers, as well as unions. “We’ll do the full-court press,” he said.

As far as the boisterous opposition groups, Camara said his coalition has appeared at the same rallies and meetings, but the two sides have had no formal communication or debates. “I don’t agree with anything they’re saying,” he said. “It’s totally one-sided.” The opposition groups have argued that the biomass plants will be harmful to the environment, as well as human health. “Right now, what we’re doing is much, much worse,” Camara insisted. “Exporting and importing fuel when we should be using our own.”