ABC praises House intro of Ag Environmental Stewardship Act

By American Biogas Council | June 30, 2017

The American Biogas Council, the trade association for the U.S. biogas industry, praises the recent introduction of the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act (H.R. 2853), House companion legislation to Senate bill 988.  The House bill was introduced by Congressmen Ron Kind, D-Wisconsin, and Tom Reed, R-NY, with 22 original bipartisan cosponsors.  

This bill, along with the Senate companion bill, (S. 988) introduced in early May, will increase agricultural viability by helping to deploy new nutrient recovery and biogas systems that recycles organic material into baseload renewable energy and healthy soil products. The Act provides a 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) for qualifying biogas and nutrient recovery systems.

 "For a healthy economy, we need healthy soils and clean waterways. Biogas and nutrient recovery systems help us achieve cleaner, healthier soil and water and the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act will increase the deployment of these systems," said Patrick Serfass, executive director of the American Biogas Council. "We thank Congressmen Reed, Kind and the other co-sponsors of this bill for recognizing the far reaching benefits of sustainable farming where organic material and nutrients should be recycled to create beneficial soil products, baseload renewable energy and jobs."

The introduction of H.R. 2853, and the significant bipartisan support it has already received, reflects the critical need to support economically and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices that protect waterways and enrich soils.  At the present time, there are no tax incentives to encourage biogas or nutrient recovery systems.  A previous production tax credit under section 45 of the federal tax code which promoted the use of renewable electricity expired at the end of 2016.  This new credit would promote the production of pipeline quality natural gas and compressed renewable natural gas vehicle fuel as well as nutrients which are essential to agricultural production.

 "By creating incentives to make biogas and manure resource recovery technologies more affordable the Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Act will encourage more widespread use of manure digesters. This benefits society by decreasing nutrient runoff in waterways, decreasing farm odors, and improving water quality," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. 

 The Algae Biomass Organization's Executive Director, Dr. Matt Carr has also shared his organization's support. "By supporting investments in algae-based and other nutrient management systems, the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act will help farmers recycle valuable ag nutrients back into their operations and reduce the burden on taxpayers of recovering those nutrients downstream. It's a win-win for everyone."

 Connection between nutrient recovery and biogas systems

While some nutrient recovery systems can process raw manure instead of digested manure, nutrient recovery is enhanced technically and economically when processing digested manure in tandem with a biogas system. Biogas systems transform manure and other organic residuals, like food waste, using a natural, microbial process (not too different from what happens in a cow's stomach). This digestion produces a digestate containing all of the nutrients but in more bioavailable forms. Since the digested material is already warm, homogenous and broken down as it leaves the biogas system, nutrient separation is more efficient and the reliability of separating or concentrating the nutrients from the digestate is increased. This allows farmers and landscapers greater control of how much of each nutrient (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) they apply to the soil. 

 U.S. Biogas Market

Currently, the United States has more than 2,200 sites producing biogas, and still, the potential for growth of the U.S. biogas industry is huge. A recent industry assessment conducted with the USDA, U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE as part of the Federal Biogas Opportunities Roadmap estimates nearly 14,000 sites are ripe for development. If fully realized, these new biogas systems could produce enough energy to power 3.5 million American homes and reduce emissions equivalent to removing up to 15.4 million passenger vehicles from the road. It would also result in an estimated $40 billion in construction spending, creating approximately 335,000 short-term construction jobs and 23,000 permanent jobs to operate the biogas systems and manage ongoing business activities.