Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Pa.’s Biomass Burners Harm Air Quality Near Schools, Study Shows

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Cut wood lies in a pile at a bioenergy plant in Germany.

Biomass refers to any kind of organic material that is burned for energy. Wood, garbage, crops, manure and landfill gas are all examples of biomass fuel. Proponents say biomass is renewable because more trees and crops can be planted, and humans will never stop producing garbage.

But a new report out this week by the Partnership for Policy Integrity, and funded by the Heinz Foundation, says burning biomass creates harmful air pollution. The report criticizes Pennsylvania’s support for biomass burners to power schools. The Partnerships director, Mary Booth, conducted the study.

“Despite the popular image of wood-burning biomass as ‘clean’ and ‘green,’” said Booth in a release, “these burners emit far more pollution, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and ozone-forming nitrogen oxides, than oil and gas burners.”

The study shows that some of these biomass burners are in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards. Both federal and state grants and loans targeted for renewable energy helped fund those facilities.

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