Keeping Dirty Energy Out Of The Clean Power Plan

Activists Petition White House to Prevent Incentives for Burning Biomass & Waste

Contact: Monica Wilson, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

With President Obama’s Clean Power Plan expected to roll out next week, thousands of people across the country are demanding the plan not incentivize one of the dirtiest forms of energy—burning biomass and  waste.

“If the EPA allows dirty energy like waste incineration to be subsidized by the Clean Power Plan, there will be very negative consequences for community health and climate change. Millions of public dollars will be burned up by switching from one dirty energy to another, instead of being invested in real solutions like wind, solar power and recycling,” said Ahmina Maxey of the Zero Waste Detroit coalition. Zero Waste Detroit organizes in communities that house one of the nation’s largest waste incinerators

In November 2014, the EPA released a memo stating that states implementing the Clean Power Plan could encourage power plants to burn trees and garbage — including plastics — without counting the carbon greenhouse emissions from these fuels. This allows dirty energy sources to be considered “carbon neutral,” although burning wood and garbage actually releases more climate pollution per unit of energy than burning coal.

The EPA’s logic is that when you burn a tree, another tree grows back to sequester the carbon that was released. But scientists warn that it takes seconds to burn wood and trash and release even more carbon dioxide in the air, and that it takes many decades for trees to grow large enough to remove the same amount of carbon dioxide from the air.

In early July, the White House rejected a bill that would have allowed biomass burning to count as carbon neutral. In the policy brief released by the Obama administration, they explained that carbon neutrality for biomass goes against the EPA’s own scientific studies which shows significant carbon dioxide and methane emissions from burning organic fuels.

“Burning garbage and biomass for energy is neither clean nor green, and these toxic practices unfairly impact people across the U.S., especially communities of color and poor communities,” said Monica Wilson of the GAIA. She added: “In order to effectively address climate change, the Clean Power Plan needs to prioritize the reduction of pollution in communities most impacted, while supporting democratic, community-led solutions in energy and resource conservation.”

Today, GAIA and organizations from Newark, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan presented a petition with over 6000 signatures in a meeting with White House staff, demanding that the White House uphold its July decision that biomass is not carbon neutral, and that any allowances biomass and garbage burning be removed from the Clean Power Plan.

A number of community-based groups, members of GAIA’s U.S. network, are organizing to stop such dirty energy incentives in the state implementation phase of the plan.


Reference Materials:

  1. Petition from Story of Stuff and GAIA which received over 6000 signatures
  2. Letter from environmental groups to the Office of Management and Budget, June 23, 2015
  3. Dissident Voice: Dismantling Energy Apartheid in the United States, February 9, 2011