Concerning pollution from burning

Monday, January 08, 2018

The Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) and other environmental groups oppose the proposed new Department of Energy biomass regulations in the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards because, they say, of negative air pollution impacts.

Biomass opponents are, of course, correct that particle pollution can present a serious air quality problem in New England. The EPA website, as yet unaltered by the Trump administration, states that “particle pollution is produced by a wide variety of natural and manmade sources, including factories, power plants, trash incinerators, motor vehicles (especially diesel engines), construction activity, fires and natural windblown dust. In the wintertime, a particular concern is fine particles (PM2.5) released by smoke from fireplaces, wood stoves and outdoor burning.”

“Why is the State of Massachusetts offering incentives for wood heating when wood burners are already a major source of air pollution in Massachusetts?” asks Dr. Mary Booth, PFPI’s director, when her own organization informs us to which wood burners are the root of problem.

The PFPI website echoes the EPA by stating that in Massachusetts, biomass combustion accounted for 83 percent of all PM2.5 emissions from heating, and a quarter of the state’s total PM2.5 emissions. What biomass opponents never like to oppose is the politically unpopular fact that 80 percent of that 83 percent amount comes from residential wood burning; fireplaces, woodstoves and outdoor burning. Only 3 percent comes from commercial/industrial biomass boilers which have highly effective emissions controls not found on any home heating device.

“The effects of particulate pollution on respiratory and cardiac health are well-documented,” said Dr. William Copeland, a pediatrician who practices in Greenfield. “Massachusetts has an unfortunate combination of high childhood asthma prevalence and many days when air pollution exceeds EPA’s health standards.”

“No burn” days are imposed in Colorado, Montana and other western states when the air pollution is heavy. I wonder how many physicians and biomass opponents in the Commonwealth have wood stoves and fireplaces?

John Bos

Shelburne Falls