Thursday, October 1, 2009

Columnist Susan Laing:

Top: Increasing atmospheric  CO 2             ...Image via Wikipedia

Dear Friends and Fellow Citizens,

Please visit the website to find information about the citizen “Initiative Petition to Change the Law in Massachusetts” regarding the allowable limit of CO2 emissions from new power plants in MA. I am one of the 10 original petitioners, and now that the petition has been certified, we must collect 100,000 signatures in the next 6 weeks to ensure that the proposed new law can be debated and voted upon in November of 2010.

We are trying to stop biomass incinerators. Biomass is a nice sounding term that denotes a set of things including public forests, trash including hospital waste, construction and demolition debris. Those biomass power plants (incinerators that make a tiny bit of electricity) emit at least 50% more CO2 than coal per killowatt hour (depending on what exactly is burned) – not to mention the other greenhouse gases and toxins.

In western MA there are many companies strong-arming small towns with promises of jobs and real estate taxes, looking for permits to do exactly this incineration in the name of (and with the public subsidies for) "renewable energy." Those public subsidies should go to wind, solar and geothermal; with biomass in the renewable category, the money will be diverted to biomass—a fancy name for incineration. Combustion does not belong with renewables. Our investment in the future does not belong in the hands

In my town of Greenfield, Massachusetts, Pioneer Renewable Energy, LLC will build (unless we the people succeed in stopping it) an incinerator to burn 3 million pounds of green wood, 24/7, to produce one quarter of one percent of the electricity Massachusetts citizens are using now.

55% of that wood will come from public forests. There have been clear cuts from Mass public forests for a biomass plant in New Hampshire. I urge you to visit to see the evidence. It will also evaporate close to 600,000 gallons of water daily--water that the river is accustomed to receiving daily from our wastewater treatment plant. In case of a drought, the biomass plant will have the right to take what it needs from our reservoir. If there is not enough water for both the people and the power plant...

None of this is going in the right direction for climate change and sustaining life on this planet. We can do something to help shift the direction, and we must do whatever we can!

In Massachusetts, and in the Waxman Markey bill and now in the Senate Climate Bill, biomass is included among the "renewables," which means that the CO2 from those operations will be off the books, not counted in the CO2 emissions. This is the most alarming and nearly invisible treachery of all.

At the Zoning Board Hearing in Greenfield, for example, when the developer (a 34 year old grad of Tufts School of International Diplomacy) was asked, "What about the CO2?" the answer on the record was, "There will be no CO2." In the real world there will be TONS of CO2 emitted, but in the made-up world of pollution trading, it helps the game to define biomass among renewables and to define renewables as having zero CO2 emissions.

The real world in which our bodies live and breath is irrelevant to these climate bill operatives. The financial game is what matters to them. What matters to you? Will you have enough to buy your family's passage to the new planet when this one is cooked? It's time to prove that WE THE PEOPLE means something.

Please be in touch in with me if you can help gather signatures. It's easy, fun and satisfying citizen work. A voter’s signature says, “Yes, let my fellow citizens raise this question for public discussion and a vote in November of 2010."

Please help me get this initiative to the ballot! Call me (413-773-5529) or email me ( and let me know what you think. I'll make it easy for you to help!

Sincerely, Susan Laing, originally from Somerset, Massachusetts

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