Senators introduce biochar technology bill

By Anna Austin
Posted September 29, 2009, 3:45 p.m. CST

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is co-sponsoring a bill with Sens. John Tester, D-Mont., Max Baucus, D-Mont., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Tom Udall, D-N.M., that would promote the implementation of biochar production technologies using excess plant biomass on public land.

The Water Efficiency via Carbon Harvest and Restoration Act of 2009 (WECHAR) would establish U.S. Department of Interior and USDA loan guarantee programs to develop biochar demonstration projects, including mobile and fixed biochar production units.

The purpose of the act is restore the natural hydrology of Western landscapes by removing water-intensive plant species, reduce dangerous forest and rangeland fuel loads, develope technologies to convert undesirable invasive plant species to useful materials and to develop markets for those materials, and provide technologies to land managers to continue those processes into the future.

According to the bill, the pine bark beetle has killed thousands of acres of standing forests in the Western U.S., thus creating a hazardous build-up of dead tree biomass that is a serious fire threat, and that numerous expert reports have brought attention to the negative impacts caused by invasive weed species, including the consumption of water in areas with diminishing supplies.

Upon passage, the bill would call for the director of the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct resource assessments to collect and synthesize interagency and state data to quantify the amount of invasive plant species and excess biomass in the form of dangerous fuel loads that are on public land that can be used for feedstock; the estimated carbon content in that feedstock; the estimated potential biochar and bioenergy which could be generated from that feedstock; and the potential water savings resulting from removal of invasive plant species and excess biomass on public lands, by watershed.

The secretary would then provide loan guarantees to applicants, if the biochar production units produced by the applicants will be dedicated primarily to contract restoration work with the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service or U.S. Forest Service, utilizing the specified biomass feedstocks.

To view a copy of the bill go to visit .