Murkowski biomass amendment passed by Senate committee

By Erin Voegele | September 18, 2012

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ala., recently announced that a biomass-related amendment she submitted for inclusion in the Tribal Energy Bill, S. 1684, was passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Sept. 13. 

According to information released by Murkowski’s office, the legislation contains a provision for tribes to participate in rural biomass energy demonstration projects—particularly tribes in the lower 48 states. Murkowski’s amendment creates the same opportunities in Alaska for Native corporation lands.

 “This is another one of those laws and rules that don’t work in Alaska, where our people have hundreds of thousands of acres of timber lands and an enormous need for exactly these sorts of innovative solutions,” said Murkowski.  “As I saw during my August trip through rural Alaska, burning biomass is a proven way to curb our high energy costs, and I thank my committee colleagues for seeing the value of this common-sense amendment.” 

Section 202 of the legislation amends the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004 by adding language regarding tribal biomass demonstration projects. According to the bill, in each fiscal year, from 2013 through 2017, the Secretary of Agriculture is directed to enter into stewardship contracts or similar agreements with Indian tribes to carry out demonstration projects to promote biomass energy production, including biofuel, heat and power, on Indian forest land an in nearby communities by providing reliable supplies of woody biomass from federal land.

The bill also notes that in each fiscal year for which projects are authorized, a minimum of four new demonstration projects that meet eligibility criteria are to be carried out. To be eligible, a tribe is directed to submit an application for the program that includes several pieces of information, including a description of the Indian forest land or rangeland under the jurisdiction of the tribe and the demonstration project that is being proposed.

The legislation was introduced in October 2011, at which time it was referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs.