Massachusetts opens public comment period on RPS rulemaking

By Erin Voegele | March 29, 2022

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources on March 4 opened a public comment period on proposed amendments to the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), including those related to biomass. The public comment period closes April 1. A public hearing was scheduled for March 29.

A notice published by the DOER explains that the agency announced a phased rulemaking related to Class I and Class II RPS regulations last year. Phase I changes were finalized in July 2021.  “The Secretary of State has taken the position that in order to publish the proposed biomass changes (Phase 2 changes), a new rulemaking process was necessary,” the DOER said in the notice. “Thus, the Phase II RPS Class I and RPS Class II regulations were not finalized with the Secretary of State in November 2021." DOER began a new rulemaking process in March 2022 to implement certain changes to the RPS, including those related to biomass.  

The DOER said it has proposed to retain all previously proposed changes that were subject to the Phase 2 process undertaken in 2021. “All previously filed public comments on these proposed changes will become part of the record of this new rulemaking and need not be resubmitted in order to be considered,” the agency said.

The new rulemaking also includes a proposed change related to the treatment of biomass plants in environmental justice communities. The 2021 proposal aimed to prohibit generation units using eligible biomass wood fuel from qualifying for the RPS program if they are located within an environmental justice population or within 5 miles of an environmental justice population. Under Massachusetts regulations, a neighborhood is defined as an environmental justice population if the annual median household income in a block group is equal to or less than 65 percent of the statewide median ($62,072 in 2010), or 25 percent or more of the residents identify as a race other than white, or if 25 percent or more of households have no one over the age of 14 who speaks English only or very well.  The new proposed amendments walk back that proposed requirement.

“DOER proposes a further amendment that exempts generation units that meet all other applicable requirements and have a commercial operation date prior to January 1, 2022 from the proposed Environmental Justice requirements in 14.05(1)(a)7.e,” the agency said.

Additional information is available on the Massachusetts DOER website