Senate Plays with Fire in Trying to Legislate Carbon Science and Give a Free Pass to Dirty Biomass and Coal
Washington, DC – The US Senate is poised to vote today on the controversial Energy Policy and Modernization Act (S. 2012) which has environmentalists and local community organizations up in arms because of a sweetheart deal for the bioenergy industry. Today, over 75 organizations sent a letter to Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) voicing their opposition to the legislation because of its dangerous biomass provisions.
“The message from conservationists and communities across the country is clear, burning wood for electricity is bad for our climate and quality of life,” said Adam Macon from Dogwood Alliance. “The US Senate should stick to the business of protecting the people and environment, not create sweetheart deals for their favorite industries at the expense of the rest of us.”
An amendment from Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) (S. Amnd. 3140) that was earlier accepted by voice vote instructs the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop policies that “reflect the carbon neutrality” of forest-derived biomass. This contradicts the general scientific consensus that per megawatt hour, burning wood for electricity generates more carbon emissions than coal.
“This bill sets a dangerous precedent by legislating science and overriding physical facts,” said Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy Program Director Benjamin Schreiber. “Congress is interfering with the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health.”
An amendment from Senator Manchin (D- W.Va.)(S. Amnd. 3270) that is slated for a vote would promote co-firing coal with biomass by deeming it to have “net-negative carbon emissions” when paired with carbon capture and sequestration, despite the reality that biomass co-firing would significantly increase carbon emissions from coal plants. In addition to the increased emissions associated with burning wood, deeming co-fired plans “net-negative” would extend the life-spans of coal-burning power plants and delay the transition to clean clean renewable energy.
Earlier this year sixty top climate scientists sent a letter urging the Senate to remove the bad biofuels language. “These amendments are an attempt to subvert science and allow some of the most destructive industries to continue with business as usual,” said Adam Macon from Dogwood Alliance. “The US Senate needs to listen to leading scientists who show that biomass is not carbon neutral and is taking us backwards rather than toward a truly clean and green renewable energy future.”
“We cannot have U.S. Energy Legislation that endorses, subsidizes or supports dirty and inefficient sources of power like biomass,” Center for Biological Diversity Senior Counsel Bill Snape. “The current Senate bill is riddled with harmful provisions and special interest favors, and its treatment of forest biomass energy sources will denude American forests and vastly increase deadly greenhouse air pollution.”
The vote on both the Manchin Amendment and on final passage are expected to happen today.
To see the letter with the full list of signatories, go here.