Sen. Wyden issues letter to GSA in support of biomass energy

By Erin Voegele | February 20, 2015

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., recently issued a letter to Dan Tangherlini, administrator of the General Services Administration, and Thomas Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, asking for their consideration of biomass energy technologies for leases or construction of federal facilities in Oregon.

Within the letter, Wyden notes that the GSA works with federal agencies when they need to acquire office space, visitor centers or other facilities. He also indicates the GSA precludes the use of biomass for heat, or combined-heat-and-power in some instances. “I encourage the GSA to reconsider these constraints and to study how to increase the utilization of biomass energy in federal buildings and facilities,” he wrote.

According to Wyden, demand for biomass is rapidly expanding in Oregon. “Many of our rural communities to do not have access to natural gas, and biomass for heating officer significant savings in utility costs as well as reductions in CO2 emissions and local air pollutants,” he wrote, offering Wallowa County as an example of a community that has been a leader in the use of biomass to heat public and community buildings.

In the letter, Wyden said he has heard from his constituents that the GSA is making it difficult for new Forest Service building leases to utilize biomass for heat and energy. One comment, he said, noted transportation distances might be a reason why GSA opposes the use of biomass in federal buildings. However, he stresses that distances do not undermine the economic or environmental benefits of biomass heat in comparison to heating oil or propane. In addition, Wyden points out it is inconsistent to assign transportation distance guidelines to biomass fuels, but not to heating oil or propane, which are transported a much greater distance.

Wyden closes the letter by asking the GSA to issue a response that outlines its current process for evaluating biomass energy technologies, and that describes ways the GSA could better support the use of biomass energy resources in federal facilities.