Air campaigners lobby government over biomass

Manchester air quality campaigners say they have sent hundreds of emails to Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) ministers highlighting the health dangers of burning wood at biomass energy plants.

DECC ministers Ed Davey, Michael Fallon and Gregory Barker have each received more than 100 emails each from members and supporters of the Breathe Clean Air Group, based in Trafford, Greater Manchester.

Members of the Breathe Clean Air Group campaigning in Manchester

Members of the Breathe Clean Air Group campaigning in Manchester

As well as affecting local air quality and impacting on public health, the campaigners claim that biomass plants – such as the one proposed for Barton in Greater Manchester – also contribute to carbon dioxide emissions.

According to the campaign group, research carried out in Massachusetts in the USA shows that ‘burning biomass produces 50% more carbon dioxide than burning coal and 330% more carbon dioxide than burning natural gas’.

Following the start of the email lobbying campaign, DECC minister Ed Davey recently announced proposals that would see subsidies for biomass fuel end by 2027, as the government believes biomass is only a temporary solution to the UK’s energy needs. In the meantime, subsidies for bespoke biomass burning plants are also to be capped at 400MW.

Chairman of the Breathe Clean Air Group, Peter Kilvert, said: “We hope that our action has had some influence on Mr Davey.”

But, the Breathe Clean Air Group is still campaigning to stop the proposed £70 million Barton Renewable Energy Plant in Daveyhulme, Greater Manchester, and is now calling on its supporters to send lobbying emails to Owen Paterson MP, who is the minister responsible for climate change at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Barton plant was granted planning permission in May 2013 (see airqualitynews.com story) and campaigners claim that the plant will emit carbon dioxide and harmful toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

Mr Kilvert said: “Burning biomass is not safe for people or planet earth and we won’t stop our campaign until the government stops this dirty process and chooses safer options.”

However, the Barton plant was granted a permit by the Environment Agency in October 2012 and Peel Energy claims that all of its power stations are “subject to strict emissions controls” designed to protect public health.

Construction is due to start on Manchester-based firm Peel Energy’s 20MW biomass plant in 2014 and it will process around 200,000 tonnes of biomass fuel each year for 25 years, mostly comprised of reclaimed wood.