Okla. Bill Could Promote Pellet, Biomass Production

By Erin Voegele | February 04, 2013

Legislation recently introduced in the Oklahoma state legislature could help spur development of a wood pellet/biomass fuel industry within the state. Earlier this month, state Rep. Richard Morrissette introduced HB 1656, or the “Oklahoma Woody Biomass Energy Initiative Act of 2013.” The bill would create a state council, known as the “Wood Biomass Energy Initiative Council,” with the goal of growing the state’s biomass energy sector.

Within the text of the bill, Morrissette specified one feedstock, in particular, that may be a good source of biomass fuel within the state: Eastern Red Cedar. According to the bill, the Eastern Red Cedar, a tree native to the state, is encroaching on ecosystems outside its historic habitat. The text of the bill goes on to state that the tree species is currently costing the state an average of $412 million each year in loss of water, grazing lands, wildlife habitat, fire loss and allergic illness.

Back in 2010, HB 2686 established the Eastern Redcedar Registry Board to promote management and utilization of the species. According to Oklahoma Forestry Services, the idea was that market creation and product development would slow the tree’s encroachment into nonnative habitats. It seems that together, these two programs could help expedite the development of a woody biomass energy industry in Oklahoma.

I checked Pellet Mill Magazine’s pellet plant map, and our records currently show no pellet production facilities within Oklahoma. The pellet production boom in the southeast region of the U.S. has been bringing significant economic benefits to those states. Hopefully, this type of state initiative can help bring those economic benefits to other forested regions of the U.S.