Rehberg's Bill Reduces Wildfires While Increasing Renewable Energy Production
Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, has introduced legislation that would allow wood harvested from overgrown forests to be used as a renewable source of energy. Congress is expected to vote on the FIRE Act this week - a bill which addresses the skyrocketing costs of wildfires. Rehberg's bill would help reduce those costs while simultaneously increasing the production of renewable biomass energy.
"If nature was allowed to run its course, most of this wood would have already burned in a forest fire," said Rehberg, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water. "Instead, we put the fires out leading to unhealthy forests that burn hotter and faster. My bill creates a market-based incentive to harvest wood that isn't suitable for commercial use, and uses it to create energy."
The Wildfire Risk Reduction and Renewable Biomass Utilization Act revises the definition of "renewable biomass" to include biomass removed from certain federal lands in connection with an authorized hazardous fuel reduction project. The current definition of "renewable biomass" doesn't include material removed from Federal or State forest lands in order to reduce wildfire risks, except when the removal occurs in the "immediate vicinity of buildings and other areas regularly occupied by people, or of public infrastructure, at risk from wildfire." This bill doesn't grant access to new areas of land for resource harvesting nor does it advocate clear-cutting. Instead, it creates a new energy market for wood that is currently left in the forest because it has limited commercial value.
"We're literally harvesting the energy of a forest fire," said Rehberg. "This is one of those rare opportunities to kill two birds with one stone for Montanans who are saddled with both the expense of fire management and rising energy costs. We'll also be creating new jobs in two of Montana's core industries."