Burlington McNeil plant expansion runs afoul of Vermont Climate Council biomass group

By Guy Page

The city of Burlington’s plan to heat city buildings with excess heat from the McNeil power plant has gotten the cold shoulder from the biomass task group of the Vermont Climate Council (VCC).

The appointed Council is charged by the Legislature to advance plans to reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2050. If the biomass committee recommendation is adopted by the Vermont Climate Council, the city’s plans could be met by opposition at the state level.

Burlington Electric Department

“New electric-led generation biomass facilities in the State of Vermont should not be used,” the biomass report states. “The Ryegate and McNeil facilities should not be expanded to increase the currently permitted hourly output capacity, physically or otherwise. Furthermore, the facilities should strive to use less biomass overall than they do currently.”

On Dec. 5, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced a ready for Act 250 review a long-planned ‘District Energy System’ project to heat UVM, hospital, and state buildings with excess heat from the burning of woodchips and natural gas from the McNeil power plant.

But on Dec. 1, the Biomass Task Group of the VCC seemed to pour cold water on the biomass plant expansion — and indeed, on all biomass-fueled power generation in Vermont.

“New electric-led generation biomass facilities in the State of Vermont should not be used,” the biomass report states. “The Ryegate and McNeil facilities should not be expanded to increase the currently permitted hourly output capacity, physically or otherwise. Furthermore, the facilities should strive to use less biomass overall than they do currently.”

In fact, both McNeil and Ryegate should plan to stop using biomass entirely, the task force urged the VCC to recommend.

“The Vermont Climate Council recommends that the State plan and prepare for the phase out of wood biomass electricity generation at the McNeil and Ryegate facilities and the phase up of other energy sources, complemented with other important actions such as efficiency and consumption reduction,” the Dec. 1 report said.

The report also called for an investigation of the climate and forestry impacts of the McNeil District Energy System.

The study should examine “implications for phase out in relation to the long-proposed McNeil plant expansion for co-generation of thermal heat for district heating. This review will need to include as part of that scope reviewing the long-proposed expansion of the McNeil facility to accommodate wood combustion for thermal heat production – whether as co-generation from electricity production or as a thermal-only replacement for a phased-out electricity generating plant.”

It should also examine air quality, public health, and the site’s ‘highly sensitive archeology.’

“In addition to climate and forest implications, the investigation must examine impacts on air quality, emissions, and the health of residents of the adjacent communities. If a thermal-only alternative is advanced, siting should be considered particularly in relation to over-burdened communities. It must also include a full equity assessment which will involve the Just Transitions Subcommittee and the tools developed in support of the Climate Action Plan. McNeil is on land that is listed on the state historical site for the most highly sensitive archaeology in the state so cultural resources must be addressed as well.

It’s likely many of the issues raised by the Biomass Committee will be addressed in the project’s Act 250 review.

Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.

Image courtesy of Burlington Electric Department
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6 thoughts on “Burlington McNeil plant expansion runs afoul of Vermont Climate Council biomass group

  1. Where using biomass makes sense is when electricity produced is combined with use of heas. Ironic to climate council biomass task group have oppose actually significantly improving this source of renewable local power.

  2. Classic idiocy of liberallsm. For Decades they fawned over BTV wood chip plant, even though burning the tree chips destroys forests. And good hardwood needs can take 30-40 years to re-grow and replace.. Tree’s absorb C02 and Liberals endorse cutting them down.

    Liberals and Enviros despise nuclear, and shut that down. They despise oil and gas and try to shut that down. They seek to halt any badly needed new oil/gas pipelines. Liberals fight the expansion of Coventry landfill which produces a large amount of renewable methane to make electricity. liberal Enviros “hated on” Hydro Quebec’s hydro electricity (plentiful & cheap) because it harms “indigenous peoples.”. Enviro’ in VT have fought hydro dams because they harm fish habitat. Liberal enviros have protested and fought wind towers because they are loud, they can kill birds and they are unsightly to their views.

    I hope Libs and Vt digger read this… and somehow “get woke” to just how stupid and illogical they really are…they all need to b going to a “de-programming” facility to get off this cultish fantasy..

  3. The meanie-greenies didn’t seem to have a problem mowing down half a mountain top for their massive wind turbines (not biodegradable material) They don’t have a problem plastering solar panels (not biodegradable material) into once pristine pastures that are no longer accessable or viable to wildlife or farming. The Climate Council is a collective of globalist NWO cultist who have no business, no authority, controlling our lands or waterways. As much fraud as it is farce and folly.

  4. It is a disgrace to allow clear cutting of New York State forest to burn trees in McNeal, which is less than 25% efficient, on a plant site basis, which mens the heat equivalent of 3 out of 4 trees is wasted.

    That tree heat would be much more efficiently produced by very efficient wood fired stoves for the heating of many thousands of houses and other buildings

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