BCAP rule draws thousands of comments

By Anna Austin
Posted April 7, 2010, at 10:48 a.m. CST

The USDA's Biomass Crop Assistance Program proposed rule has drawn more than 20,000 submissions during the 60-day comment period, according to USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. USDA released the proposed rule Feb. 3, allowing comment submissions until April 9.

The final count could be significantly higher, she added, as that number was a preliminary estimate given several days before the comment period deadline. In similar past scenarios, the few days prior to the cut-off date saw an influx of comments as many people wait until the last minute. Merrigan could not yet describe the range of input received, but she said the USDA will be working as quickly as it can to assemble a team to organize and analyze the comments. "We put out a variety of options for people to give us feedback," she said. "It will be very interesting to see if there is some consensus in key areas of the rule, but only time will tell. There's a lot of work to do to get to the final rule."

Merrigan made the remarks about BCAP during an energy forum officially recognizing a memorandum of understanding recently signed by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems.

The Department of the Navy has set new energy targets for the Navy and Marine Corps and biofuels are a major component of these; the departments will now work together on projects that support President Obama's initiative to make the U.S. a global leader in developing a renewable energy economy, reducing energy consumption derived from fossil fuels and increasing energy production from renewable energy sources.

Merrigan and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations & Environment Jackalyne Pfannenstiel could not yet comment on any specific USDA/DON projects.