California bioenergy bill killed

By | October 26, 2010

A bill (AB 222) that would have expedited the introduction of new conversion technologies to produce green power and advanced biofuels from organic waste materials in California is officially dead, due to lack of key support needed from five democrats on the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

Bioenergy Producers Association Chairman Jim Stewart said the dismissal of AB 222 was a major blow to a key element in California’s Bioenergy Action Plan, with which the bill was consistent.

Overall, AB 222 would have corrected scientifically inaccurate definitions and antiquated provisions in the Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, and enabled and expedited the in-state production of green electricity and advanced biofuels from biomass through new nonincineration technologies such as gasification, fermentation and pyrolysis. The bill would have also removed current statutory restrictions that require thermal conversion projects to have zero emissions, a standard required of no other energy generation technology or manufacturing process in the state. Finally, it would have allowed the biogenic portion—the leftover materials when waste has been sorted for recycling—of municipal solid waste (MSW) to qualify under the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

California has a recycling mandate of 50 percent, a law that was passed in 1989. “If a city or a county makes its waste available to these bioenergy companies then it doesn't count toward that requirement and it would place them at risk for being fined for not meeting the mandate,” Stewart said.

Conversion technologies can recover five times as much energy from MSW as landfill gas with fewer emissions, Stewart said. “However, electricity from landfill gas receives RPS credit in California, whereas if you gasify the MSW to produce electricity before it enters the landfill, it does not.”

Stewart said without AB 222, it could take five to six years to permit and construct a conversion technology facility in California—if a permit could be attained at all.