October 24th, 2014
By: Mollie Simon
How close to do you live to a dangerous biomass facility? A new report and database released by the Partnership for Public Integrity this week shows the 100 most polluting biomass facilities in Pennsylvania.
This database is an excellent resource and gives a strong picture of the biomass industry in Pennsylvania. By making information available to the public, it allows affected community members to get involved with air quality issues that impact their neighborhood.
Biomass is commonly misunderstood as a clean fuel source.
“Biomass is unique because it has been subsidized and promoted so heavily in Pennsylvania as clean renewable energy, while the reality is that biomass burners emit tens of tons of soot and other pollutants into local communities,” said Mary Booth, director of PFPI and the author of the report.
Burning wood and other biomass emits high amounts of pollutants such as particulate matter and soot which worsens air quality and can exasperate respiratory illness.
One of the most striking facts from the report is the drastic increases in asthma in school children across the state from 2008 to 2012. Pennsylvania has seen an overall 43% increase in asthma in schoolchildren, with some counties seeing increases as high as 256%. While there are many factors that can contribute to asthma, the ever degrading air quality in Pennsylvania certainly plays a role in these heightened rates. Our children are paying the price for our foolish environmental practices.
When it comes to protecting our air, Pennsylvania isn’t doing too well. Over a third of Pennsylvania counties (25 of the 67) failed to meet Environmental Protection Agency health standards for particulate matter, ozone or both. Particulate matter is one of the most dangerous pollutants released from biomass and wood burning operations. As we continue to irresponsibly burn wood, biomass, and fossil fuels, particulate matter and ozone endure in our communities.
Pennsylvania should be subsidizing and supporting true renewable energy like wind and solar power. Continuing to invest in polluting fuels like biomass will only lead to more pollution and more respiratory illness. You can read the full report on biomass facilities in Pennsylvania here.