BPA Hosts Successful Washington Fly-In

By Bob Cleaves | July 28, 2011

Remember that Frank Sinatra song “Come Fly with Me?” Well, that’s what Biomass Power Association members did in June, descending on Washington, D.C., from points all around the nation. In June, the BPA held its annual Washington fly-in, where members of the biomass community traveled to the  capitol to remind elected officials about the many ways that our industry benefits the nation—and, thus, why we should benefit from the same support that Congress provides other renewable energy sources.

This particular fly-in was one of the most successful in memory. In dozens of meetings with members of Congress—both old and new friends—we made real progress toward setting forth our agenda. Boiler, commercial industrial solid waste incinerator and the nonhazardous secondary material rules continue to be on everyone’s minds. We reported to Congress that in recent months, the U.S. EPA has made real progress in understanding our industry and listening to our concerns, chief among them being that classifying traditional biomass fuels as “wastes” will only create more financial burdens without any public health benefits.

To correct these fundamental problems, we need the EPA to take a “regulatory timeout” and make sure that the rules avoid unintended consequences. We believe that can only happen through legislation. During our fly-in, H.R. 2250 or the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, was introduced by Reps. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine,—representing a state with many biomass facilities—captured the importance of the legislation and the need for the EPA to adopt a common sense regulation when he said, “In much of rural America, and especially in Maine, any hope of economic recovery is dependent upon the preservation of the kinds of high-quality jobs that are supported by biomass, such as those in our forest products industry. With U.S. unemployment remaining stubbornly high, we must support regulations that strike a balance between environmental protection and job creation and retention.” 

EPA regulations were not our only focus while in Washington. Working with Michael Brower, a longtime friend and advocate of biomass, we secured a meeting with Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., who is making a concerted effort to raise the importance of biomass in the overall national energy debate. Stay tuned for more exciting news on that effort in the near future.

Our hill visits also encompassed tax parity. To date, biomass has received less than 2 percent of 1603 grants, and like hydro and waste to energy, our section 45 credits are 50 percent of the value of other renewables (and no credits for thermal), despite the fact that we produce 50 percent of the nation’s renewable supply. That could change with tax parity legislation now before the House Ways and Means Committee. A special thanks to Reps. Wally Herger, R-Calif., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., for introducing H.R. 2286, or the Renewable Energy Parity Act, to ensure equal tax treatment for electricity produced from all renewable energy sources.

There is a lot of positive momentum for biomass in Washington right now. With all eyes on the deficit, it appears that all other legislative business is taking a back seat. That said, to ensure that these efforts produce results, the BPA urges each of you to contact your members of Congress—either by phone, email or an in-person meeting while they are on August recess this month—and encourage them to join in supporting H.R. 2250 and H.R. 2286, and also reach out to Rep. Bass in support of his efforts.

Author: Bob Cleaves
President and CEO, Biomass Power Association