California lawmakers push for biomass power in RFS

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, June 22, 2018

If some of the 129 million dead or dying trees in California could just be cut down, they might have a future in electricity.

That’s the case a handful of the state’s members of Congress have made to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, urging him to clear the way for biomass-derived electricity as part of the federal renewable fuel standard.

Utilities in California are required to buy biomass power, but further action by EPA is needed to meet the industry’s potential and keep facilities online, the lawmakers said in a letter.

Utilities have submitted registrations and petitions to EPA for biomass power to qualify for the RFS, which is usually associated with ethanol blended into gasoline or, at times, biomass-based diesel.

“While it is appropriate to carefully review the overall RFS program, we are concerned that EPA’s inability to process the registrations of biomass-derived electricity has created ‘winners and losers’ among agricultural fuels and their feedstocks,” the lawmakers wrote.

They added, “Corn ethanol producers in many states have benefitted tremendously from the renewable fuel standard — and our biomass power producers in California should be able to participate as well.”

The eight lawmakers signing the letter were Reps. Doug LaMalfa, John Garamendi, Paul Cook, Raul Ruiz, Dana Rohrabacher, Mimi Walters, Devin Nunes and David Valadao.

Garamendi and Ruiz are Democrats. The others are Republicans.

In their letter, the lawmakers cited their state’s “unprecedented tree mortality crisis,” with 129 million dead or dying trees, according to the Forest Service.

The push by the lawmakers follows EPA’s determination earlier this year that biomass is carbon neutral, a position supported by the Biomass Power Association and opposed by environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, which says the burning of biomass is more polluting than EPA acknowledges (Greenwire, March 23).