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RELEASE: McNeil biomass power plant goes “on trial” at Burlington City Hall

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Experts to set the record straight on Vermont's single largest source of carbon emissions

For Immediate Release: Tuesday June 13th, 2023


Contact:

Ashley Adams, Stop VT Biomass: 802-343-2875, ashleyjaneadams@gmail.com

Judy Dow, Gedakina: 802 373 2107, jdowbasket@aol.com

Steve Goodkind, Burlington Department of Public Works (Retired): 802-316-6045, bludriver@aol.com


BURLINGTON, VT – At the urging of city residents and concerned people from around Vermont and the region, the Burlington City Council is putting the McNeil biomass power plant, Vermont’s single largest source of carbon emissions and co-owned by the City, under the microscope to evaluate its true impacts to the climate, public health, forests, and water quality. On Tuesday at 6:30pm at Burlington City Hall, at the invitation of the City’s Transportation, Energy, and Utility Committee, the Burlington Electric Department (BED) will defend its oft-repeated and unsubstantiated claims of climate-friendly energy against two of the world’s leading biomass researchers and a skeptical public.

A new scheme to pipe steam from McNeil almost a mile and a half to the UVM Medical Center, requiring an increase in overall wood burning, is under consideration by the City Council, reviving debates over the future of the controversial power plant. The results of the biomass symposium could have significant implications for a forty-year-old power plant that has already exceeded its expected lifespan.


“McNeil is a climate disaster and should be mothballed,” commented Ashley Adams, a local business owner, Burlington resident, and member of a new coalition called Stop VT Biomass. “Burlingtonians have been fooled for too long by BED’s greenwashing. As experts will attest at Tuesday evening’s symposium, biomass electricity emits even more carbon than coal fired power plants, all the while destroying one of Vermont’s most important tools in the fight against climate change and ecosystem collapse: our forests.”


Although often touted as essential to Burlington’s widely heralded “Net Zero” climate goals, McNeil emits nearly as much carbon per year (453,000 tons in 2021) as half of Vermont’s registered passenger automobiles (calculations based on US EPA estimates and US Transportation Department figures). Claims that carbon emissions from biomass facilities are balanced by forest regrowth, as well as other erroneous assertions, have been debunked by top scientists around the globe, including Dr. Bill Moomaw and Dr. Juliette Rooney-Varga, who will present their findings about the perils of biomass electricity to the City Council and BED.


“This land was always protected when it was in the care of Native American hands,” said Judy Dow, educator and Executive Director of Gedakina. “They were in a right relationship, with the right values: Respect, Responsibilities, Relationship, Reverence and Reciprocity. Western Science wants to take things apart and study the small components, but they forget how to put it back together. Let's braid the two sciences together in a good way and stop burning biomass, one of the most destructive practices happening today.”


A study by the Energy Futures Group to inform the Vermont Climate Council and Vermont’s Climate Action Plan, found that biomass “district heat” is the only energy scenario — of a dozen and a half analyzed — that actually increases greenhouse gas emissions.


“McNeil produces carbon better than it produces electricity,” commented Steve Goodkind, retired Director of the Burlington Department of Public Works. “We are kidding ourselves if we think this dinosaur of a power plant is a ticket to a cleaner, healthier future for our community or our planet. It’s time for Burlington to join with so many other leading, progressive cities, states, and nations around the planet that have turned their back on burning biomass and switched to truly low carbon energy solutions.”


“We have recently been struggling to breathe in the smoke of hundreds of Canadian fires,” added Judy Dow. “People are closing schools, wearing masks, staying inside, and cancelling sports events to prevent damage to their lungs from particulate matter. Yet every day smoke pollution spews from the McNeil power plant and nobody questions it. It’s time to wake up, Burlington.”


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About Stop VT Biomass: Stop VT Biomass is a newly organized group fighting to keep communities and forest ecosystems healthy and combustion-based technologies out of Vermont climate policy.

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