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US Senators urge Biden to support biomass industry

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US Senators have written to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging the Biden Administration to support the biomass industry.

In a bipartisan letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Susan Collins, among others, call for the US Government to address ‘languishing applications’ under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) programme, including moving forward with allowing renewable electricity made from biomass to qualify, if it is used to power electric vehicles.

Doing so would level the playing field among fuel sources and enable biomass power plants to generate and sell credits under the RFS programme to refiners that must meet national renewable fuel targets. Shaheen is also leading bipartisan legislation with Senator Thune to address these concerns.

Senator Shaheen has long advocated for US forests and initiatives that would survey and repurpose biomass for clean energy initiatives. In the funding bill for fiscal year 2021, Shaheen secured $5 million (€4.2 million) for the USDA Agriculture’s Community Wood Energy Programme (CWEP), a competitive grant scheme that aims to help with the costs of installing high-efficiency, biomass-fuelled energy systems.

Shaheen and Collins’ bipartisan legislation – the Community Wood Energy Innovation Act – was included in the Farm bill, signed into law in 2018. Their bill expanded eligibility for CWEP, incentivised investments in energy-efficient wood energy systems, and supported facilities that repurpose low-grade, low-value wood that would otherwise end up in landfill.

The letter reads: “Farmers, foresters, local governments, and small business owners nationwide have been adversely impacted by the inability to participate in the RFS due to agency inaction on renewable facility registration applications involving approved fuel pathways and petitions for approval of additional fuel pathways.

“Biogas, biomass and waste-to-energy electricity producers need the EPA to take action to approve their participation in this important programme.”

The Senators continued their letter by highlighting that the production of cellulosic biofuel electricity from RFS-approved feedstocks helps to drive the growth and development of sustainable agriculture, forestry and the rural economy, and supports greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The lawmakers urged EPA Administrator Regan to make addressing these obstacles that limit biomass power generation and forest-based industries a top priority. The letter mirrors concerns shared by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to address the backlog of advanced biofuel registrations to allow more fuel producers to participate in the RFS.

“Approving these backlogged applications and petitions, which the EPA has existing authority to do, will help the US advance its clean energy goals while supporting local economies in rural America,” the letter concluded.