Legislation until Lame Duck Session: A Look Ahead

By Bob Cleaves | October 08, 2012

This fall—as the season is in most years that are divisible by four—is full of uncertainty for Congress, as the attention of Washington, D.C., is focused on one thing only: the presidential race. The capitol city will be a ghost town as congressional incumbents and their staffers head back to their districts to campaign for most of October.

Under these circumstances, we don’t expect much upcoming legislation that will affect the biomass industry through the end of the 112th Congress. Nevertheless, we held our annual Biomass Power Association fly-in in mid-September to remind our legislators in Washington, D.C., about our many important economic and environmental contributions, and the things we need as an industry for continued success. 

Over three days, our member companies met with members of Congress, senators and regulators. We told stories of the 15,000 men and women who work hard for our industry, the public-private partnerships that are saving forests while generating clean energy, and towns like Berlin, N.H., which have new beginnings thanks to biomass. We recounted time and again the regulations, policies and legislation we need to continue operating in light of falling natural gas prices, rising fuel prices and incentives that often don’t apply to existing infrastructure.

And we showed appreciation to those elected officials who have stood by us at times when it hasn’t been the most popular thing to do. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., received the Friend of Biomass award for her continued efforts to advocate on our behalf for legislation that will keep us afloat. On receiving the award, Stabenow pointed out that the biomass industry supports  Michigan businesses using products grown in the state to produce energy. “I am honored to receive this recognition on behalf of the hard-working men and women who keep our forests healthy and provide renewable energy for homes and businesses throughout our state,” she said. “I will continue leading the effort to help our businesses spur new biomass and bio-manufacturing jobs, both in Michigan and across the country.”

While we don’t expect a lot of legislating in Congress this fall, there are a few areas where we might see some progress.

One is the Section 45 Production Tax Credit. It is up for renewal next year, and we are working with other baseload energy sources to encourage Congress to extend the placed-in-service date. This would be a temporary fix to our long-term tax parity challenges, but it would help dozens more facilities qualify for the upfront funding that they need to attract investors and ensure a successful project. 

We are also keeping an eye on a potential—although not very likely—House vote on the 2012 Farm Bill that has already been approved by the Senate. The bill includes close to $200 million in funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program over the next five years.

 Regardless of the outcome of the presidential, House and Senate races—and the congressional activities for the rest of 2012—we are laying the groundwork for favorable policies in the future.

Author: Bob Cleaves
President and CEO, Biomass Power Association