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Press briefing addresses Manomet study

By Lisa Gibson | May 31, 2010
In the wake of misinterpretation and oversimplification of the Manomet Massachusetts biomass study findings, forest, farm and labor union representatives are speaking at a media briefing event in Holyoke, Mass., July 27. "Farmers, Forest and Labor Speak Out on New DOER Biomass Regulations" will be held in response to public input meetings held by the State Department of Energy Resources (DOER) July 27 and 28.

Wayne Lehman Jr., organizer and field representative for Laborers Union Local 596, will kick off the event, followed by Jim Kelly, president of the Massachusetts Association of Professional Foresters. Sarah la Cour, director of Conservation and Planning for W.D. Cowls, Inc., Land Company and member of the Massachusetts Forest Owners Association, will also speak at the event, along with Brad Mitchell, director of government affairs for the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. The media briefing will wrap up with speaker Ken Lynds, president of the Massachusetts Wood Producers Association, and Gregory Cox, of the Massachusetts Forest Landowners Association. The event grew from Citizens for a Clean Economy, a campaign to educate voters of the negative impacts of a ballot initiative that would have unreasonably limited biomass power plant emissions. The group pushing for the initiative has taken it off the table in light of the Manomet study findings and subsequent actions.

The study, "Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study," was commissioned largely because of citizen opposition to biomass power plants in Massachusetts. It was released June 10 and outlined a debt-then-dividend model of biomass greenhouse gas impacts, saying biomass emits more greenhouses gases than coal per unit of energy, but pays back carbon debt as the forests re-grow. Several mainstream media, including the Associated Press, reported simply that biomass is dirtier than coal, prompting clarification letters from Manomet regarding the reports. The DOER will use the findings of the study to determine whether biomass power will qualify for the state's renewable portfolio standard. Without that qualification, plants lose a key portion of revenue, making biomass power uneconomic. The study can be seen in its entirety at www.manomet.org.

At the beginning of July, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sent a letter to the DOER, requesting swift policy change in light of the findings, which unfortunately studied only new forest biomass, not waste wood, residues and other feedstocks the plants will actually use. That letter, however, was issued two days before the public comment period was up, July 9. The participants in the media briefing are concerned that the rule-making process will be driven more by election-year politics than sound, peer-reviewed science, they say.

The focus of the event will be on: job creation; ecosystem benefits of markets for low-grade waste wood; the need to sustain rural communities; financial benefits for communities hosting a biomass facility; the urgency of weaning the country off fossil fuels; and support for rules that promote sustainability and carbon benefits but concern regarding the rule-making process.

The media briefing will be at 11 a.m. Eastern time at the office of the Laborers Local 596 at 345 Northampton Highway. The DOER's public meetings will be held July 27 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time at Gardner Auditorium in the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston, and July 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time in the Leslie Philips Auditorium at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke.

The study, findings and methodology will also be discussed during a general session panel - Examining the Sustainability and Carbon Neutrality of Forest-Derived Biomass - at Biomass Magazine's Northeast Biomass Conference & Expo Aug. 4-6 in Boston. The panel will include Tom Walker, a Manomet consultant who will discuss the study, specifically the carbon accounting; Dave Tenny, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners; Bob Perschel, Northeast Region Director of the Forest Guild; Michael Goergen, executive vice president and CEO of Society of American Foresters; and moderator Dwayne Breger, director of renewable and alternative energy development at the DOER.
 

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