Senators ask federal agencies to recognize biomass benefits

By Erin Voegele | July 02, 2015

A group of 46 senators, led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., have sent a letter urging leaders of the U.S. EPA, U.S. Department of Energy, and USDA to recognize the benefits of bioenergy in federal policy.

Within the letter, the senators stress that federal policies across all departments and agencies must remove any uncertainties and contradictions through a clear, unambiguous message that forest bioenergy is part of the nation’s energy future.

“Many states are relying on renewable biomass to meet their energy goals, and we support the renewable biomass to create jobs and economic growth while meeting our nation’s energy needs,” wrote the senators in the letter. “A comprehensive science, technical, and legal administrative record supports a clear and simple policy establishing the benefits of energy from forest biomass. Federal policies that add unnecessary costs and complexity will discourage rather than encourage investment in working forests, harvesting operating, bioenergy, wood products, and paper manufacturing. Unclear or contradictory signals from federal agencies could discourage biomass utilization as an energy solution.”

The letter goes on to indicate that the carbon neutrality of forest biomass has been recognized by numerous studies, institutions, legislation, and rules around the world. “There has been no dispute about the carbon neutrality of biomass derived from residuals of forest products manufacturing and agriculture,” the letter continues. “Our constituents employed in the biomass supply chain deserve a federal policy that recognizes the clear benefits of forest bioenergy. We urge you to ensure that federal policies are consistent and reflect the carbon neutrality of forest bioenergy.”

In addition to Collins and Merkley, the letter is signed by Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; John Boozman, R-Ariz.; Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Richard Burr. R-N.C.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Bill Cassidy. R-La.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Thad Cochran, R-Mich.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Angus King, I-Maine; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Joe Manchin, D-W.V.; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Johnny Isaskson, R-Ga.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Ron Johnson. R-Wis.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; David Perdue, R-Ga.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; James Risch, R-Idaho; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.;  Tim Scott, R-S.C.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Pat Toomey. R-Pa.; David Vitter, R-La.; and Roger Wicker, R-Mo.

American Wood Council President and CEO Robert Glowinski has spoken out in support of the letter. “These senators have called for clear policies recognizing the carbon neutrality of biomass energy derived from sustainable forestry. It’s crucial for agencies to be consistent on biomass energy so their policies are workable in practice,” he said.

“AWC member companies generate almost 80 percent of the energy they use from renewable biomass, most in the form of residuals from manufacturing and operations,” Glowinski continued. “We thank all of the letter’s supporters and, in particular, Senators Collins and Merkley for leading the effort.”