Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 20, 2023


Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, (510) 844-7103 x 303,

50 Groups Petition to End California’s Dirty Biomass Loophole

Polluting Biomass Power Plants Take Advantage of Clean Energy Rules

OAKLAND, Calif.— More than 50 environmental and justice organizations petitioned the California Public Utilities Commission today to end a nearly two-decades-old “free pass” given to biomass power plants under the state’s greenhouse gas emission performance standard. The commission carved out this free pass based on the false premise that electricity made from biomass is not a significant source of carbon emissions.

“It’s long past time to make biomass power plants play by the same rules as other polluting forms of energy in California,” said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “If the commission fails to address biomass pollution, California will achieve its climate goals on paper but not in reality.”

Like coal and oil, biomass is a carbon-burning form of energy production that emits carbon dioxide. In fact biomass power plants are California’s dirtiest electricity source, releasing more carbon at the smokestack than coal. On average biomass power plants in the state emit more than three times the greenhouse gas limit set by the commission.

Yet biomass plants continue to pollute under a 2007 loophole that fails to hold them to the state’s greenhouse gas pollution standard — or even report their carbon emissions at all.

Biomass power plants are also a significant source of air pollutants, harming the vulnerable communities where biomass facilities are located and deepening environmental injustice.

“Dirty biomass energy harms human health and accelerates global warming from the very moment the trees are cut,” said Dr. Goli Sahba with Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sacramento. “Burning trees to generate electricity endangers frontline communities and workers with heart and respiratory illnesses and neurodegenerative disease. Biomass energy is the wrong move for public health and should not get any free passes.”

The petition asks the commission to open a rulemaking that would consider ending the biomass exception and instead require that biomass power plants show a full accounting of their carbon emissions, just like every other power source in the state.

“The science is clear that biomass energy pollutes local communities and our global climate,” said Amy Moas, Ph.D., senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA. “This carbon-burning power source should never be considered on the same playing field as clean solar and wind energy.”

RSMendota-biomass-plant-Shaye-Wolf-Center-for-Biological-Diversity-FPWC-scr (2)
Proposed biomass with carbon capture and storage facility in Mendota, Calif. Courtesy Center for Biological Diversity. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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