(by joe from invalid.invalid)
Sun Sep 19 18:41:00 EST 2010
Date: September 19, 2010 6:48:32 PM EDT
Subject: NEW ENERGY CREDIT RULES RIPPED AS JOB KILLERS (State House News
NEW ENERGY CREDIT RULES RIPPED AS JOB KILLERS
By Michael Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
SEPT. 19, 2010
..New Patrick administration rules
restricting tax credits for biomass energy, aimed
at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, are facing
strong pushback from industry and labor
officials, who say the changes will stifle job growth.
The draft regulations, released early Friday
evening and targeted for a mid-October public
hearing, permit credits only for projects that
can demonstrate substantial reductions in
greenhouse gas emissions and require biomass
units to meet a new high efficiency standard.
Last December, the state suspended energy
incentives for new biomass facilities, pending
the development of the new criteria.
Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power
Association, said Sunday that existing biomass
power generators will be unable to comply with
the proposed rules without significant
investments, and he said the rules represent a
major shift in state policy and standards and
would have a "chilling effect" on new biomass projects.
"If these standards are enacted as proposed, I'm
quite certain that there will be no new
development in New England," said Cleaves, whose
group is based in Portland, Maine. "There will
be no new biomass jobs created in New
England. That's a significant job killer."
The rules allow renewable energy credits only for
power produced with biomass fuels derived from
forest residue, forest salvage and energy crops,
a constraint designed to ensure forest
sustainability. With restrictions, trees removed
in forest management thinning operations are
considered eligible biomass fuels, according to a
Department of Energy Resources overview of the
regulations. They also create a fuel
certification, tracking and verification system
to ensure that eligibility criteria are met, with
a new advisory panel established to review
compliance and the state required to conduct a
"forest impact statement" every five years.
The regulations were developed after Energy and
Environmental Secretary Ian Bowles, citing new
scientific studies, announced plans in early July
to revise renewable energy incentives by focusing
on high-efficiency biomass, significant
reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over a
20-year timeframe, and sustainable sources of feedstock.
In an interview, Bowles said states have been
grappling for the past five years with renewable
energy portfolio standards and limiting
greenhouse gas emissions from biomass facilities.
He described a limited amount of feedstock for
biomass in New England and a "big" difference in
greenhouse gas implications between electric-only
biomass plants and those that combine heat and
power. The regulations, he said, "mean putting
our incentives towards the more efficient types
of facilities and grandfathering out incentives
for some of the electric-only facilities."
Asked if biomass energy could grow in
Massachusetts under the proposed rules, Bowles on
Sunday predicted more small and medium-scale
combined heat and power facilities. "I think it
will grow in a different fashion" than it is today, Bowles said.
Bowles said the biomass industry had largely
evaded greenhouse gas emissions restrictions and
that the state has been giving the industry a
closer look based on results of scientific studies.
"This is sound science-based policy and I
understand that it's going to have some
significant implications for the industry over
time, but it should not come as a surprise," he
said. "This is an important question to solve as we move forward."
The July directive from Bowles spurred grassroots
activists to drop a ballot drive targeting
biomass subsidies. Backers celebrated the Patrick
administration's decision. In the weeks leading
up to the release of the draft rules, groups like
the Conservation Law Foundation praised planned
revisions aimed at requiring biomass to be highly
efficient, setting stringent greenhouse gas
limits, and ensuring biomass fuels are sustainably harvested
Reached Sunday, Margaret Sheehan, who led the
so-called Stop Spewing Carbon ballot campaign,
said she had not reviewed the draft regulations
but said she understood that the rules were
"consistent" with the goals laid out by Bowles in
July. Sheehan's group in July said the planned rules were a "major
Bowles indicated in July that he planned to have
final regulations in place by Dec. 31, 2010.
Wayne Lehman, a field representative and
organizer for Local 596 Laborers Council, said
the group's 500 members have been eyeing as many
as 380 construction jobs tied to a project that
Madera Energy has planned in Greenfield.
"It's not going to be good for us, as in
construction work," he said. "This is not really
the time to pass regulations that are going to
stifle innovation and jobs. The last three years
have been very bad for us. We need jobs."
Richard Rosen, chief executive officer of
American Agra-Energy, said the rules will halt
planned greenhouse projects tied to biomass
energy in Greenfield and
Russell/Montgomery. Each project promises 400 jobs, he said.
"These regulations are totally foolish," Rosen
said. "I think it's entirely driven by political
considerations. I think the current
administration has made a deal with environmental
groups to write regulations to prevent biomass
plants from being built in Massachusetts."
Cleaves agreed. "These regulations in my view
are entirely a function of politics," he
said. "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the
only state in the country that is taking this approach."
Rosen said the Greenfield and Russell/Montgomery
projects would use a portion of the wasted heat
produced at the plants to grow vegetables and cut
flowers. Asked if the projects would advance if
the rules are adopted, he said, "We can't. We won't be able to finance
State energy officials say the regulations are
based in part on conclusions reached in a Biomass
Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study prepared
for the state by the Manomet Center for
Conservation Studies. The rules, officials say,
incorporate sustainability and carbon criteria
into the state's renewable standards to help
ensure that emissions reduction targets are in
line with the state's Global Warming Solutions
Act. The study's conclusions have been
interpreted differently by industry stakeholders.
Asked if the rules changes would have been
proposed without the ballot question, Bowles
noted the launching of the Manomet study and the
suspension of biomass credits in December
preceded the momentum behind the ballot question.
"It was already well in process before anyone
proposed doing anything with it on the ballot side," he said.
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