Shaheen Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Expand Development of Sustainable Wood Products and Revitalize America’s Forest Economy

June 25, 2021

(Washington, DC) –Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), together with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced the Community Wood Facilities Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation that would make it easier to develop sustainable wood products and energy from biomass made from small-diameter timber left over from forest thinning projects, including projects that reduce the risk of wildfire. The legislation introduced by the bipartisan group builds on Shaheen’s bill with Senator Collins– the Community Wood Energy Innovation Act – which was signed into law in 2018 and expanded the USDA’s Community Wood Energy Program (CWEP) to better incentivize investments in energy-efficient wood energy systems and facilities that repurpose low-grade, low-value wood that would otherwise be sent to landfills.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovations Grant Program supports the forest products industry, which is crucial to the stewardship of our state’s forests and economic vitality of rural Granite State communities,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m pleased to introduce this legislation with a bipartisan group of Senators to help strengthen this vital program, promote innovation in the forest products industry and create new jobs. I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense legislation that will make a real difference for our forest communities.”

The Community Wood Facilities Assistance Act would:

  • Improve the Forest Service’s Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovations Grant Program, which provides assistance for the construction of small wood products facilities, by:

 

  • Increasing the authorization from $25 million to $50 million per year.
  • Increasing the maximum grant per facility from $1 million to $5 million.
  • Increasing the federal cost-share from 35 percent to 50 percent.
  • Increasing the maximum size for community wood energy systems eligible for grant funding from 5 to 15 megawatts.
  • Changing the program’s name to Community Wood Facilities Grant Program to avoid the current confusion with the similarly named Wood Innovations Grant Program.

 

  • Lower the Wood Innovations Grant Program minimum non-federal cost-share from 50 percent to 33.3 percent. The program provides grants for proposed innovative uses and applications and the expansion of markets for wood products.

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’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 recently led a bipartisan letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan urging the Biden administration to level the playing field among fuel sources and 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.

Earlier this year, Shaheen 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 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 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 BTU Act will also extend the residential credit passed last year through 2028.