BTEC asks Senate to expand CWEIP in 2018 Farm Bill

By Erin Voegele | August 22, 2018

More than 30 organizations, including the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Alliance for Green Heat and Pellet Fuels Institute, sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee on Aug. 17 urging the Senate to expand the Community Wood Energy and Innovations Program in the final version of the Farm Bill.

The U.S. House passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill on June 21. That legislation included an expansion of the CWEIP. One week later, on June 28, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Senate version, however, did not include an expansion of the CWEIP. The legislation will soon head to conference committee where members of the House and Senate will resolve differences between the two versions of the bill.

Within the letter, the BTEC and other groups noted that language in the House version of the Farm Bill would expand the CWEIP into a “more robust competitive nationwide grant program administered by the USDA Forest Service, with a $25 million annual authorization, for community-scale wood energy and value-added forest products projects.”

The letter notes that the use of wood for thermal energy from sustainably managed forests has many economic and environmental benefits, including job creation, increased energy security, reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and improved forest management.

According to the letter, forests are facing increased threats from insects, disease, wildfire, development pressures and rapidly shifting markets. “Private and public forests need new markets, especially for low grade or low quality wood,” the letter states. “Community-scale heating, combined-heat-and-power and district heating projects can help build strong local markets in support of responsible stewardship of these lands. In the absence of new market innovation, these forest health issues put forests and the many benefits that Americans rely on from them at risk. CWEIP was conceived to address this urgent need directly, while accomplishing many other benefits through the provision of renewable heat for public and private buildings, and support for innovative new uses of low grade wood.”

The letter also stresses that the CWEIP enjoys strong bipartisan support and was enthusiastically embraced by the 80-plus organizations that comprise the Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition.

 A full copy of the letter is available on the BTEC website