Earlier this week the Senate sent its strongest signal yet on the need for a clear, simple and consistent policy recognizing the carbon neutrality of renewable forest biomass energy. With the support of the Senate Energy Committee Chairman Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Cantwell (D-WA), Senators Collins (R-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN) and King (I-ME), flanked by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, advanced by unanimous voice vote an amendment directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Energy (DOE) to jointly establish a unified federal policy on forest biomass energy.

The remarks of these Senators upon adoption of their amendment state clearly that such a policy should:

  • Reflect the carbon neutrality of forest bioenergy;
  • Recognize forest biomass as a renewable energy source;
  • Encourage private investment throughout the forest biomass supply chain;
  • Encourage forest management to improve forest health; and
  • Recognize state initiatives to use forest biomass.

These common sense ideas provide precisely the clarity lacking in federal policy for far too long. They are supported by well-established science, tap the combined expertise of the right federal agencies and provide forest owners, bioenergy producers and states positive signals they need to move forward with confidence.

The Collins/Klobuchar/King amendment reflects a growing concern in Congress with the lack of policy progress on biomass. It has been six years since EPA surprised the biomass community by declaring that biomass would be treated the same as fossil fuels under the Tailoring Rule. Notwithstanding EPA’s positive statements and stated intention to provide clarity in its policy guidance, little has changed since 2010.. In many ways it has become more complicated. Congress has expressed concern about this lack of progress on several occasions, most recently through a June 15, 2015 letter to the EPA, USDA and DOE signed by nearly half the Senate. The amendment that advanced this week reflects that concern and would help provide resolution to an otherwise murky policy outlook.

Senators Collins, Klobuchar, King and their colleagues got it right. We need policy clarity on biomass, and we need it sooner than later. At this point legislation is the most direct path to putting biomass policy back on track. Forest owners are fully on board with the Senate and look forward to helping Senators Collins, Klobuchar, King and their colleagues succeed.

Dave Tenny, NAFO President and CEO