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Senators Markey And Warren Call For Pause On Springfield, Massachusetts, Biomass Plant

An architect's rendering of the proposed biomass plant in Springfield, Massachusetts.
MassLive / MassLive.com
An architect's rendering of the proposed biomass plant in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators have asked the state to put a stop to a biomass plant in Springfield, at least until the incoming Biden Administration weighs in on the issue.

The plant was approved by the state almost 10 years ago, though Massachusetts has had strict rules in place that make biomass less profitable. The administration of Governor Charlie Baker is planning to loosen those rules next year.

The industry maintains that biomass, which uses tree waste, is a form of renewable energy. But in a letter to the state Department of Environment Protection (MassDEP), Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey said scientific studies show it releases dangerous pollutants into the air.

Health advocates say a biomass plant would exacerbate an already bad asthma problem in Springfield, especially among people of color, and that the COVID pandemic presents even more respiratory risk.

"In reassessing the Palmer biomass plant proposal, MassDEP needs to account for the latest research into the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory health risks in the surrounding population, and the historic burden of air pollution on the local community," Markey and Warren wrote.

The senators said the plant’s approval should be suspended until the Biden administration releases its energy policy. According to The Republican newspaper, the company building the plant, Palmer Renewable Energy, said it already started construction.

Asked to comment, a MassDEP spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the senators' letter. It said any biomass plant would have to comply with the state's "extremely robust regulations to control air emissions."

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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