Controversial RI Biomass Bill Not Moving Forward In General Assembly This Year

Jun 1, 2018

A Rhode Island bill that could have cleared the way for biomass power plants won’t move forward this legislative session.

Biomass is wood waste that is burned to generate electricity. It’s also considered a renewable resource.

The bill would have included biomass in the state's "net-metering" program, which gives credits to customers for extra power generated by renewables, such as solar and wind, that flows back into the electrical grid. Those credits can lower ratepayers' utility bills. 

The biomass bill had already been approved by the Senate and was up for approval by the full House.

However, State Representative Kenneth Marshall, a Bristol Democrat and sponsor of the bill, decided this week to stop pushing the bill because of strong opposition close to the end of session.

Environmentalists have said burning biomass emits harmful pollutants like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. However, Marshall claims that is misinformation.

Governor Gina Raimondo said she would have vetoed the bill in its current form because of concerns from the environmental community.

Green Development, a Rhode Island-based renewable energy company, has been contemplating development of a biomass power plant in the state. They said the plant would be beneficial because it would divert thousands of tons of wood from the state's landfill.

However, without this bill, their biomass power plant wouldn't be economically feasible. 

"We will sit down with the opponents of the bill in the offseason and see if we can find some common ground," Bill Fischer, spokeman for Green Development, wrote in a statement. 

There are no operational biomass power plants in Rhode Island. However, utility companies in the state buys biomass energy from other New England states to comply with the 2004 Renewable Energy Standard.