VSU Faculty Senate passes anti-biomass resolution

Karen Noll reported on WACE’s facebook page that the VSU Faculty Senate passed a resolution Thursday 19 May 2011 that biomass will not be considered renewable for VSU’s climate commitment goal.

Why? Because leading medical associations have identified woody biomass incineration as increasing risks of “a variety of illnesses, some life-threatening”, because biomass incineration produces more CO2, NOX, and fine particulates than existing coal plants, and because it “may lead to unsustainable forestry practices and a net increase in global greenhouse gas emissions”.

Who proposed this?

The Environmental Issues Committee (EIC) wants to present a resolution to the Faculty Senate for their consideration regarding Sustainable Energy Resources (Dr. Jason Allard, Chair). See Attachment C.
Here is the current membership of the EIC. (At least I think it’s current: the terms seem to run through 2010 at the latest, and this is 2011.) Some of the names seem familiar, such as long-time environmental activist Brad Bergstrom and SAVE student EIC member Natasha Fast. Interestingly, former VLCIA biomass expert Tom Manning used to be an EIC member but apparently no longer is.

Here is the full text of the EIC resolution from the Faculty Senate Agenda May 19, 2011:

Attachment C: EIC Resolution

A Resolution Defining “Renewable” Electricity Sources for Potential Adoption as a Tangible Action to Reduce Valdosta State University’s Carbon Footprint Under its 2009 Climate Commitment

WHEREAS, Valdosta State University became a signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in May 2009, after a supportive resolution passed the VSU Faculty Senate unanimously; and,

WHEREAS, one of seven “tangible actions” that ACUPCC signatories may undertake in their long-term plan to achieve carbon neutrality is “purchasing or producing at least 15% of our institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources”; and,

WHEREAS, biomass combustion/incineration to produce electricity has until recently been regarded as, and may be defined under state and federal tax codes as a renewable source of electricity; and,

WHEREAS, the incineration of woody biomass and other organic debris to produce electricity has been identified recently by the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society as a significant source of air pollutants including but not limited to nitrogen oxides and fine particulates, causing increased risks of a variety of illnesses, some life-threatening; and,

WHEREAS, biomass incineration for base-load electricity generation produces more nitrogen oxides and fine particulates per unit of power than existing coal-burning power plants, meaning it is not clean energy; and,

WHEREAS, recent studies indicate that biomass incineration for base-load electricity generation produces more carbon dioxide per unit of power than existing coal-burning power plants and may lead to unsustainable forestry practices and a net increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning it is not green energy;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Valdosta State University Faculty Senate, meeting at its _____________ 2011 meeting, urges that, if and when VSU decides to adopt as a ACUPCC tangible action a renewable energy portfolio for its electricity use, that it not include biomass combustion as part of that renewable portfolio, due to the above stated detrimental environmental and health effects, and instead urges investments in improved energy efficiency and truly green energy sources such as solar and geothermal, and other non-combustion, non-polluting methods as may be available.

This resolution does not necessarily represent the views of the administrators, faculty, or staff of Valdosta State University or the Georgia Board of Regents.


American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). (2007-2011). http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/about/commitment

Brook et al. (2004). Air pollution & cardiovascular disease. American Heart Association. http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/109/21/2655

Luyssaert et al. (2008). Old-growth forests as global carbon sinks. Nature 455:213-215. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v455/n7210/abs/nature07276.html

Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences (2010). Biomass sustainability and carbon policy study. http://manomet.org

Searchinger et al. (2009). Fixing a critical climate accounting error. Science 326:527-528. http://www.openmarket.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/searchinger-science-oct-09.pdf

US EPA “Tailoring Rule,” 40 CFR. http://www.epa.gov/nsr/documents/20100413final.pdf

VSU Faculty Senate meeting minutes for May 21, 2009: http://www.valdosta.edu/facsen/meeting/minutes/documents/Senate_Minutes_2009-05-21.pdf

3 thoughts on “VSU Faculty Senate passes anti-biomass resolution

  1. Michael G. Noll

    Two big THUMBS UP for the VSU Environmental Issues Committee (EIC) for presenting this resolution, and for the VSU Faculty Senate for passing it!

  2. Karen Noll

    VSU’s faculty senate has resolved to use more clean energy AND truly renewable energy sources. The resolution also makes clear that biomass is not clean and will not be considered renewable as the university moves toward 15% renewable energy. This is great news for the community as a whole and for the students that wish to attend VSU and breathe clean air

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