Letter: Biomass Wood Burning Plants

I think all the government incentives for green energy are wonderful. However, I see one problem that has slipped in because the government did not have a proper definition of "alternative" energy. They define alternative as anything that is not fossil fuels or nuclear. This has left the door open for all sorts of incineration to be considered alternative energy.

Renewable is a term used in state and federal legislation. It only means that the energy source is replenishable on a short time scale. Biomass burning plants have come in to take tax credits, subsidies, research, renewable portfolio standards, and preferential pricing given to green power. This is not green power. These plants can burn wood, demolition wood, garbage, sewage sludge, tires, animal factory waste or agriculture wastes. They are an excuse for states to burn garbage calling it "green energy." Since there is already a well-developed incineration industry, biomass takes advantage of most of these legislative benefits. Elimination of biomass from the definition of renewables means that wind (the cleanest, cheapest option) would get better funding. With government wanting to reduce greenhouse gases, how can they be letting hundreds of these burning plants be built?

Our town, Plainfield, Connecticut, is building a wood burning plant. Wood can include pallets, construction/demolition waste, land clearing, Christmas trees, paper and mill waste and wood industry wastes. These types of wood can produce dangerous chemicals when burned including pesticides, wood preservatives, binder, paints, glues, plastic laminating materials, chlorinated adhesives or phenol and urea formaldehyde resins. Painted wood may include lead or mercury. Treated wood may be coated with creosote, copper chromium arsenate. Dioxins and furan, arsenic and chromium VI can be released.

The plant in Plainfield would require 365,000 tons per year of wood fuel. There is already a couple of these plants in Maine, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and one in Vermont. This will be the first one in Connecticut, but all the New England states except RI have some of these burning plants planned.

The Department of Environmental Protection supports these plants because it’s a way to get rid of the state’s demolition and other waste. When I was growing up in the 1960s, my mother used to burn our garbage. Then the practice was outlawed because of pollution. Now it is okay again to burn our waste in giant incinerators, and they do not have good pollution controls. Also, the state is putting it in one of the poorest towns in Connecticut, a distressed town. Most people don't know what the plant is, and 69 residential structures are within 1000 feet of the plant. It’s a way for the wealthy towns that don't want the plant in their town to get rid of demolition waste.

Biomass burning plants should not be included in green energy credit. Instead of demolishing structures, give a tax credit for repairing rather then demolishing old buildings. This would reduce this type of waste.