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Herseth Sandlin, Walden Introduce Bill to Fix Biomass Definition in Renewable Fuels Standard

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC


Today, Rep. Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) reintroduced the Renewable Biofuels Facilitation Act, legislation that would encourage and incentivize the development and use of cellulosic ethanol derived from woody biomass on federal lands and from private forests as well. The bill would significantly broaden the definition of cellulosic ethanol within the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to include more biomass gathered from federal lands.

The Herseth Sandlin - Walden bill addresses a flaw included in The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which included an historic 36 billion gallon renewable fuels standard (RFS), 21 billion gallons of which are required to be derived from "advanced biofuels" by 2022. Unfortunately, the legislation's definition of renewable biomass prevents almost all federal land biomass, such as trees, wood, brush, thinnings, chips, and slash, from counting toward the mandate if it is used to manufacture biofuels. This provision not only discourages the use of such biomass, but in doing so could result in a decrease in responsible forest management by denying land managers an important outlet for the excessive biomass loads that often accumulate on public lands. The Herseth Sandlin - Walden bill would promote the use of energy from waste products gathered on federal lands, including those that are byproducts of preventive treatments and are removed to reduce hazardous fuels, to reduce or contain disease or insect infestation, or to restore ecosystem health.

The Renewable Biofuels Facilitation Act currently has a geographically diverse and bipartisan group of original cosponsors: Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR), Bart Stupak (D-MI), Jo Ann Emerson (R-VA), Mike Ross (D-AR), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

"As we seek to strengthen and diversity our nation's energy portfolio, it's critical that we keep all sources of renewable fuels on the table to aid us in that effort," Rep. Herseth Sandlin said. "While the energy bill took tremendous strides to decrease our dependence on foreign sources of energy, not allowing biofuels made from certain types of biomass to count toward the RFS hinders the potential benefits of the landmark legislation. I will continue my advocacy for this critical improvement in the definition of the RFS as it not only benefits our country's energy security but keeps forests healthy and promotes economic development in the surrounding communities."

"Our bipartisan legislation would give the country a better chance of reaching its goal of producing 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels a year by 2022—enough to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 20 coal-fired electricity plants," Rep. Walden said. "There's technology out there to turn woody biomass from forest health treatments in our choked forests into clean fuel, a process that would create good paying jobs and a healthier environment at the same time. A major roadblock standing in the way of that progress is this flawed federal energy policy we're trying to correct."

Tom Troxel, Director of the Black Hills Forest Resource Association in Rapid City, added, "This is a very important issue to the Black Hills, and I really appreciate Rep Herseth Sandlin's leadership in introducing this bill. Counting woody biomass from the national forests toward the Renewable Fuels Standard is crucial for production of cellulosic ethanol from woody biomass in the Black Hills. That will also encourage better utilization of slash piles and small trees, which will help reduce fire hazard in the Black Hills National Forest. In short, this bill has the potential to encourage local production of renewable fuels, create local jobs, and reduce fire hazard in our forests."

The Renewable Biomass Facilitation Act would change the definition to clarify that federally sourced biomass is eligible for consideration under the renewable fuels standard. Additionally, the bill would allow RFS credit for broad categories of biomass from non-federal and tribal lands including agricultural commodities, plants and trees, algae, crop residue, waste material (including wood waste and wood residues), animal waste and byproducts (including fats, oils, greases, and manure), construction waste, and food and yard waste.

Biomass projects that would be conducted under the authority of the Herseth Sandlin bill on federal lands would still have to comply with federal and state law and applicable land management plans. There is an additional requirement for old-growth maintenance, restoration, and management on federal lands as defined in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.

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