Friday, December 6, 2013

[biofuelwatch] City of Burlington, VT finally agrees to include McNeil Biomass CO2 Emissions in Climate Action Plan

After two years of pushing the city of Burlington, VT to do the obvious--include the CO2 emissions of the McNeil incinerator, the state's biggest polluter, in the carbon accounting for its climate action plan--they finally agreed to do it...sort of.

At first, after getting 350 VT, a UVM scientist, Chris Matera from Massachusetts Forest Watch, Rachel Smolker from  Biofuelwatch and a few others to push the city to account for this, the city still flat out refused to do accounting. I wrote an article about it, but after talking to every media outlet in the state, still couldn't get any of them to write an article about it. While almost every one of my opeds on biomass are published, I couldn't get the Burlington Free Press to run my oped on this topic that I submitted 3 different times.

Finally, when I moved to Burlington this summer I contacted my city councilor and then contacted the city again. They had a different person in the position and she agreed "something" should be done. She claimed the software they used didn't account for "biogenic CO2." Thanks to Elaine Bailey,we figured out that wasn't exactly true--the software's most recent version DID account for "biogenic" CO2, they just didn't have the latest version (many cities use this same program). Still, they said they'd do something. After a couple months of no action and many emails back and forth, I asked if there was any kind of public meeting I could go to before they released the final version...since there had been meetings in the past they hadn't informed me of while I was in frequent communication with them. It just so happened there was a Planning Commission meeting a couple weeks later...would they have told me about it if I hadn't asked point blank?

I attended the Planning Commission meeting, presented the topic--most of them were clueless, of course--and got them to pass a motion to include the info as either a "sidebar" or a "footnote," though one of the commission members said a footnote wouldn't be enough. Still, they said they'd include the numbers in the report, so those who actually want the total numbers of emissions --McNeil alone is more than the whole city's emissions on its own--can find this out.

A journalist from the Burlington Free Press who has been working on an article on biomass carbon accounting for several months--their newspaper only had 1 article on biomass impacts in the past 5 years!--was at the meeting by my request, so hopefully they won't be able to get away with anything slippery.

An interesting note was that after the meeting the Free Press guy told me I presented my case well...however he admitted he still didn't fully understand the whole biomass carbon accounting issue. I'm pretty convinced that media doesn't report on our topic mainly because they don't get it. So it's up to us to make simpler messaging. Anytime we get too complex and start talking about varying levels of efficiency and "good" biomass and bad, they get lost and just give up.

Josh Schlossberg
Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, Energy Justice Network

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"Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders. Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies, and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function." -- David Brower


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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

Your idea?