Senate passes Energy Bill with pro-biomass amendment

By Erin Voegele | April 20, 2016

On April 20, the U.S. Senate passed new energy legislation by a vote of 85 to 12. The bill, titled the Energy Policy Modernization Act, or S. 2012, contains an amendment that recognizes the carbon neutrality of biomass energy.

The amendment was offered by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and cosponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Angus King, I-Maine; Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Michael Crapo, R-Idaho; and James Risch, R-Idaho. It requires the Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Agriculture, and the Administrator of the U.S. EPA to jointly ensure federal policy relating to forest bioenergy is consistent across all departments and agencies and that the full benefits of forest biomass for energy, conservation and responsible forest management are recognized. The amendment also directs these federal agencies to establish clear and simple policies for the utilization of biomass as an energy solution. These policies are to reflect the carbon neutrality of biomass, recognize biomass as a renewable energy source, encourage private investment throughout the biomass supply chain, encourage forest management to improve forest health, and recognize state initiatives to use biomass.

“Biomass energy is sustainable, responsible, renewable, and economically significant as an energy source and many states, including Maine, are already relying on biomass to meet their renewable energy goals,” Collins said. “While the carbon neutrality of biomass harvested from sustainably managed forests has been recognized repeatedly by numerous studies, agencies, institutions, and rules around the world, current policy uncertainty could end up jeopardizing rather than encouraging investments in working forests, harvesting operations, bioenergy, wood products, and paper manufacturing. Our tripartisan provision would help ensure that federal policies for the use of clean, renewable energy solutions are clear, simple, and consistently inclusive of renewable biomass energy.”

“Not only is forest biomass a home-grown and environmentally-responsible source of energy, but it can also be a significant boon to rural economies in Maine and across the country,” King said. “That's why it's time that the federal government recognizes the environmental and economic benefits of this renewable resource. By requiring every federal department to be on the same page when it comes to biomass policy, our amendment will ensure that biomass will play an important role in shaping a clean and affordable energy future for America.”

The Biomass Power Association has spoken out in support of the amendment. “We are enormously grateful to Sen. Collins, and to all co-sponsors of this amendment, which accurately reflects the carbon beneficial impacts of power from forest biomass,” said Bob Cleaves, President and CEO of Biomass Power Association. “We also thank the National Alliance of Forest Owners for their strong advocacy work. If adopted in the final conferenced bill, this amendment would provide the much-needed certainty that will help our industry grow. We hope to see the amendment in the final bill, and to see the President sign off on it.”