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Shaheen, Collins Lead Bipartisan Letter to EPA Urging Support for Biomass Industry

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) led a bipartisan letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan urging the Biden administration to address languishing applications under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program, including moving forward with allowing renewable electricity made from biomass to qualify if it is used to power electric vehicles. This would level the playing field among fuel sources, and enable biomass power plants to generate and sell credits under the RFS program to refiners that must meet national renewable fuel targets. Shaheen is also leading bipartisan legislation with Senator Thune in the Senate to address these concerns.

The Senators wrote, “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 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action to approve their participation in this important program.”

The Senators continued their letter by underscoring that the production of cellulosic biofuel electricity from RFS-approved feedstocks helps 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 the obstacles that limit biomass power generation and forest-based industries a top priority. The Senators’ bipartisan 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. Congress has historically worked together – across party lines – to take action and provide guidance and funding for the EPA to process these applications.

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

The letter can be read in full here. In addition to Shaheen and Collins, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators Hassan (D-NH), King (I-ME), Baldwin (R-WI) and Sinema (D-AZ).

Senator Shaheen has long advocated for America’s 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 for the USDA Agriculture’s Community Wood Energy Program (CWEP), a competitive grant program that aims to assist with the costs of installing high-efficiency, biomass-fueled 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 bipartisan bill expanded eligibility for CWEP, incentivized investments in energy-efficient wood energy systems and supported facilities that repurpose low-grade, low-value wood that would otherwise be sent to landfills.

Shaheen recently reintroduced the Forest Incentives Program Act with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to help landowners make forest management more affordable and provide them with sustainable options to preserve their land. Shaheen and Hassan also helped reintroduce bipartisan legislation that would incentivize the use of energy efficient biomass heaters in homes and businesses instead of relying on fossil fuel energy. The updated Biomass Thermal Utilization (BTU) Act would amend the federal tax code to incentivize the use of energy efficient wood boilers, stoves and heaters through tax credits for capital costs incurred in commercial and industrial installations. The bill will also extend the residential credit passed last year through 2028.