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PRESS RELEASE: New Report Highlights Hidden Economic Cost of McNeil Generating Station

Burlington Electric Department ratepayers are losing millions of dollars each year; money that could be better invested in truly low-carbon energy and efficiency measures

Aerial photo of Green Mountain National Forest
Burlington Electric Department's McNeil Generating Station is Vermont's largest stationary source of carbon emissions.

For Immediate Release

Saturday, November 18th, 2023


Contact:

Paul Messerschmidt (Report Author), Skype: Paul.Messerschmidt, paulmess@gmail.com

Zack Porter, Standing Trees, (802) 552-0160, zporter@standingtrees.org

Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch, (802) 482-2848, rsmolker@riseup.net


BURLINGTON, VT – A new report by Standing Trees and Biofuelwatch highlights the formerly-hidden economic costs of Burlington's McNeil biomass power plant. The report's publication comes just days before a planned Burlington City Council vote on a controversial "District Heat" proposal that would pipe steam from the power plant to the UVM Medical Center, cementing the McNeil power plant in place for decades to come.


"Up in Smoke: The Economic Cost of the McNeil Generating Station to Burlington Ratepayers," reveals that Burlington Electric Department (BED) loses $6-8 million per year, a burden shouldered by BED ratepayers. The report further details how this amount could increase to $12 million per year if current purchasers of McNeil's Renewable Energy Credits, like the State of Connecticut, follow Massachusetts' and other states' recent moves to stop treating biomass as a clean or renewable energy source.


McNeil Report - Up in Smoke-The Economic Cost of the McNeil Generating Station to Burlingt
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Download • 1.12MB

Standing Trees, Biofuelwatch, and partners in the Stop VT Biomass coalition have spent the last year educating the public, City Councilors, and other decision-makers about the climate, ecological, and public health perils of biomass electricity, arguing that the City should instead pursue truly low-carbon energy like solar and geothermal, while also investing in efficiency measures. The year of advocacy reached its apex in June at a forum hosted by the Burlington City Council, where respected biomass and forest carbon experts Dr. William Moomaw (Tufts University and Woodwell Climate Research Center) and Dr. Juliette Rooney-Varga (UMass-Lowell), debunked Burlington Electric Department's false claims about renewable and low-carbon energy. A 2022 study co-authored by Dr. Moomaw, Dr. Rooney-Varga and other experts reinforced a growing body of scientific evidence that biomass burning releases more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than coal-fired electricity.


"If the damning evidence for extreme carbon emissions, forest degradation, and threats to public health aren't enough to move the Burlington City Council to postpone or cancel its vote on BED's reckless steam pipe proposal," commented Standing Trees Executive Director Zack Porter, "we hope this economic report will finally move decision-makers to step away from dirty biomass electricity, even if only on financial grounds."


"The writing is on the wall for biomass electricity," says Biofuelwatch Co-Director, Rachel Smolker. "A growing number of states and countries are coming to their senses and questioning whether biomass electricity belongs on the list of what counts as 'renewable' or 'green' energy. If Vermont and Burlington want to be at the vanguard, and protect ratepayers from further liabilities, they would be wise to cut investments in antiquated technology and outdated research, and instead shift to truly low carbon energy sources."


The report's author, Paul Messerschmidt, a global expert on energy markets and policies, is available for questions and comments (Skype: Paul.Messerschmidt, paulmess@gmail.com).


Standing Trees is a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that works to protect and restore New England’s native ecosystems.


Biofuelwatch provides information and undertakes advocacy and campaigning in relation to the climate, biodiversity, land and human rights and public health impacts of large-scale industrial bioenergy.


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