House: Stimulus bill includes biomass provisions

By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted Feb. 3, 2009, at 2:47 p.m. CST

By a vote of 244 to 199, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on Jan. 28. The stimulus package makes supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and state and local fiscal stabilization. While 244 democrats voted to pass the bill, 11 democrats and 177 republicans opposed it.

Also known as H.R. 1, the legislation is designed to stimulate the economy in a number of ways, and includes several provisions relating to the renewable energy and biofuels industries. For example, the bill would extend the production tax credit for biomass energy until 2013.

Another provision would make $18.5 billion available for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Of that, $2 million would be allocated for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration and deployment activities, and to accelerate the development of technologies. Of that $2 billion, not less than $800 million would be allocated for biomass.

Another section of the legislation provides $4.5 billion for expenses necessary for the delivery of electricity and energy reliability activities to modernize the electric grid, enhance security and reliability of the energy infrastructure, energy storage research, development, demonstration and deployment.

Under the legislative version passed by the House, the U.S. Forest Service would be allocated $650 million in funding to be used for a variety of purposes, including the development of alternative energy technologies and energy efficiency enhancements. In addition, $850 million would be provided for wildland fire management, of which $300 million would be allocated for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health, wood to energy grants and rehabilitation and restoration activities on federal lands. The remaining $550 million would be allocated for state fire assistance hazardous fuels projects, volunteer fire assistance, cooperative forest health projects, city forest enhancements, and wood to energy grants on state and private lands.

Employee training is also addressed by the legislation. The Department of Labor would receive an allocation of $750 million for a program of competitive grants to train and place workers in high growth and emerging industry sectors. Of that, $500 million would be for research, labor exchange, and job training projects that prepare workers for careers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. The Office of Job Corps would be allocated $300 million. The legislation provides that the Secretary of Labor may transfer up to 15 percent of these funds to meet the operational need of Job Corps centers, which may include the provision of additional training for careers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

The legislation also establishes a temporary program for the rapid deployment of renewable energy and electric power transmission projects. Eligible projects include renewable energy systems that generate electricity, and electric power transmission systems, including upgrading and reconductoring projects. Leading edge biofuel projects are also eligible. To be eligible the biofuel projects would use technologies performing at the pilot- or demonstration-scale, and be determined likely to become commercial technologies. The projects would produce transportation fuels substantially reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions.

A similar bill is expected to be addressed by the U.S. Senate the week of Feb. 2. To view a full copy of H.R. 1, visit the Library of Congress Web site.