Omnibus bill policy rider deems forest bioenergy carbon neutral

By Anna Simet | May 02, 2017

The $1 trillion Omnibus spending bill up for consideration by the House and Senate this week includes a policy rider that calls for federal recognition of forest bioenergy carbon neutrality.

The House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill early Monday, 1,665-pages of legislation that will provide discretionary funding for the federal government for the current fiscal year.

In order to support the key role that forests in the U.S. can play in addressing the energy needs of the country, the policy rider regarding biomass, Section 428, directs the secretaries of energy and agriculture and the U.S. EPA administrator to jointly ensure that federal policy relating to forest bioenergy is consistent across all federal departments and agencies, and recognizes the full benefits of the use of forest biomass for energy, conservation, and responsible forest management.

The department officials should ensure the establishment of “clear and simple policies for the use of forest biomass as an energy solution, including policies that reflect the carbon-neutrality of forest bioenergy and recognize biomass as a renewable energy source, provided the use of forest biomass for energy production does not cause conversion of forests to nonforest use.”

It also calls for encouragement of private investment throughout the forest biomass supply chain, including in working forests, harvesting operations, forest improvement operations, forest bioenergy production, wood products manufacturing and paper manufacturing, as well as encouragement of forest management to improve forest health and recognition of state initiatives to produce and use forest biomass.

"If the biomass carbon language is enacted, we look forward to working with the Trump administration to develop clear and simple policies that recognize the many economic and environmental benefits of biomass energy,” said Carrie Annand, executive director of the Biomass Power Association.

The bill also includes funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance program, and the Rural Energy for America Program.