New Mexico revokes $30 million in Clean Energy Tax Breaks from Forest Biomass Company
Biomass Proponents could not Meet Deadlines for Energy Production
March 15, 2010
The New Mexico Division of Energy Conservation and Management sent a letter on March 12 to Western Water and Power Production, LLC informing the company that it had not met the 24-month milestone to generate electricity as required in the state’s administrative code. The move was heralded by conservation groups and nearby residents after they had pressed the state to enforce its standards for clean and renewable energy tax credits. Demonstrating no progress, the 35 megawatt electricity project had retained the nearly $30 million in tax credits for two years as legitimate renewable wind and solar projects waited in line.
While states and lawmakers in Washington continue to hand out subsidies for biomass energy production, conservationists and citizens are mounting campaigns across the country to prevent what they consider a dirty and destructive source of energy. Burning biomass, especially, that derived from forests, produces twice as much carbon generally than does burning coal for electricity, in addition there are numerous toxic pollutants associated with burning wood for energy. ) See http://www.stopspewingcarbon.com/biomass-facts.html).
Conservationists argue that forests, especially those held in the federal trust, are far more valuable left protected, absorbing and storing carbon. A recent analysis by The Wilderness Society found that the federal forests of the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska store almost twice the carbon than is released each year by the burning of fossil fuels in the U.S. It can take centuries for a tree to mature and absorb as much carbon from the atmosphere as might have been stored in a mature tree cut a fed into a biomass energy facility.
Massachusetts voters were the first in the nation to win a successful petition drive that will put a question on the state ballot to end taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for biomass incinerators. (See http://www.stopspewingcarbon.com/). Citizens in New Mexico as well are working to convince the state that burning forests to generate electricity is unwise both for our forests and the residents that must breath the pollutants released from facilities. (See http://biomassinfo.blogspot.com/). These citizens have asked the state legislature not to include woody biomass, especially that cut from native forests, in the renewable energy portfolio and to make it ineligible by law for clean and renewable energy tax credits.
WildEarth Guardians is working with national conservation interests to educate lawmakers in Washington D.C. about the greenhouse gas emissions and damage to forest ecosystems that result from burning woody biomass to generate electricity. Despite, these efforts, the biomass industry continues to enjoy substantial taxpayer support in the form of federal clean energy incentives found in climate change legislation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program a provision of the Farm Bill.
The revocation of the nearly $30 million in New Mexico state tax credits from the Western water and Power Production LLC is a significant turn of events for clean energy in the state and a portent for woody biomass energy nationwide. Dirty energy produced from the destruction of native forests cannot be considered clean and renewable and should be rejected as such by the states and the federal government.