Omnibus spending bill could kill BCAP
Leaders in the biomass industry are urging others to contact state legislators to bring to their attention the dramatic repercussions a section of the near 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Act would have on the industry.
Specifically, the negative effects of slashing funds imperative to the continuation of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Section 749 of the omnibus states, "none of the funds appropriated or made available by this or any other act shall be used to pay salaries or expenses of personnel to administer the Biomass Crop Assistance Program as authorized by 9011 of Public Law 107.171 in fiscal year 2011.”
While the provision does not specifically remove money for funding the program, it does do so for administrative expenses, which would effectively kill the program since USDA is not allowed to administer a program without a budget, according to Tom Kimmerer, senior scientist at Moore Ventures LLC. “The Omnibus does reduce direct BCAP spending by $134 million, or about half. It also rescinds unobligated funding balances for the Biorefinery Assistance program and Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels [about $84 million]—all of which are USDA programs,” he said.
Cuts to other farm bill programs are minimal, Kimmerer pointed out. “So somebody was targeting the biomass industry,” he said. “Though the omnibus is not in final form, people concerned about BCAP need to contact their legislators.”
Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association described the legislation as a "huge mistake. The program provides vitally important financial assistance to the collection and transportation of many kinds of biomass fuels," he said. "In addition to assisting the biomass industry with providing affordable, clean energy for hundreds of thousands of homes, the removal of agricultural waste for biomass fuel contributes significantly to the health of the environment. At a time when Congress is concerned about a fragile economic recovery and energy independence, the very last thing we need is for Congress to cancel programs designed to promote the twin goals of sustaining rural employment and bolstering renewable energy.”
If the BCAP program were killed it would also impact biofuels producers. Jim Sturdevant, director of Poet LLC's Project Liberty, said that to eliminate an excellent program like BCAP in this manner, with no debate on the merits of the program, would be a travesty. "We are doing everything we can to point out that this is a mistake," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, has planned a Sunday Senate session to work on the bill, which was released Dec. 14.
To view a copy of the proposed omnibus spending bill, visit http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=9ac3518e-7e19-4328-bf52-16a6c2a1d333.