King bill establishes biomass emissions as carbon neutral

By Erin Voegele | May 14, 2015

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, has introduced legislation that aims to ensure emissions generated from sustainably harvested biomass would be considered carbon neutral under the U.S. EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

The bill, known as “The Working Forests for Clean Energy Act,” or S. 1284, was introduced May 11 and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. To date, the measure has no cosponsors.

“Maine’s natural resources offer promising opportunities to generate clean, renewable electricity,” King said. “But the success of those opportunities depends on the effectiveness of federal policies and, right now, policies from Washington are hurting more than they’re helping.” By setting an appropriate carbon standard for biomass, he said the bill would give badly needed certainty to states and help preserve and create home-grown, diverse, and sustainable energy resources.

The EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan in June 2014. While the agency has, in a non-binding memo, indicated it may consider biomass emissions carbon neutral, no rules have been codified to provide certainty needed for states or for the forest products industry.

The bill introduced by King would provide a straightforward standard to account for emissions from biomass sources. Under the legislation, provided that a federal analysis determines that national forest stocks are stable or increasing, biomass emissions would then be considered carbon neutral. Additionally, biomass derived from mill or harvest residuals, or waste from forest management activities, would also be considered carbon neutral. According to King’s office, the standard will provide certainty to states and the forest products industry, helping ensure that a diverse market for domestic forest products can continue while also safeguarding against the widespread harvesting of forests to create electricity without any regard to the sustainability of stock.