Burning trees for fuel may soon qualify as a form of renewable energy in Massachusetts

The Baker administration plans to designate a fuel derived from felling trees and clearing brush in forests as a form of renewable energy, a move that environmental advocates say would increase emissions and counter promises the governor made after President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord.

The proposed rules, which stem from a provision in a 2014 law supported by the logging industry, would provide financial incentives for the energy source known as woody biomass — wood chips and pellets made from tree trunks, branches, sawdust, and other plant matter.


Administration officials say biomass is part of an effort to diversify the state’s energy portfolio, and that over time, the fuel shouldn’t increase carbon emissions, especially when it’s used in place of fossil fuels.

But environmental advocates have opposed the rules, saying they would in fact increase carbon emissions, create more pollution in the form of soot, and lead to greater deforestation. Trees and plants grow by absorbing carbon dioxide; when they’re burned, they release the heat-trapping gas back into the atmosphere.

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Critics also say the administration had the latitude to make the regulations far more stringent than the state has proposed. The law requires the state to ensure that the rules are “protective of public health” and reduce emissions.

“We need to be planting trees, not burning them,” said Mary Booth, director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity…

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