WASHINGTON (November 1, 2018) – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, along with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry, sent a letter to the House and Senate Committee on Appropriations. The letter describes the agencies’ work to ensure consistent federal policy on forest biomass energy and promote clear policies that encourage the treatment of forest biomass as a carbon-neutral renewable energy solution.
The use of biomass from managed forests can bolster domestic energy production, provide jobs to rural communities, and promote environmental stewardship by improving soil and water quality, reducing wildfire risk, and helping ensure our forests continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
The announcement by Administration officials backs up the successful implementation in New Hampshire of Senate Bill 365, which breathed new life into the state's six independent biomass plants. SB 365 is the natural extension, at the state level, of the Administration's biomass policy.
“This letter codifies EPA’s partnership with USDA and DOE to develop clear and effective policies that treat forest biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Providing clarity and certainty regarding the treatment of forest biomass as carbon neutral will support good-paying jobs in rural communities, protect our nation’s air quality, and remove unnecessary regulatory burdens.”
“Responsibly using the fuels from our forests is both good for the environment and good for struggling rural economies. Multiple studies have found that demand for wood products, including wood for energy, actually serves to promote investment in forest management and helps to maintain or increase the amount of land in forests,” said USDA Secretary Perdue. “A stronger bioenergy market helps America achieve a variety of forest management and sustainability goals, including: reducing wildfire risks, improving forest health, increasing restoration, watershed improvements, creating new wildlife habitat, timber stand improvement, aesthetics, and more.”
“Biomass is a key part of the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said DOE Secretary Perry. “The Department of Energy supports the men and women in the agricultural and forest industries that help provide America with clean, secure, and affordable sources of bioenergy.”
The letter states, in part:
“The interagency approach to biomass energy provided by forests and other lands and sectors will be guided by an appreciation that forests and other lands and sectors are managed to provide multiple environmental, social, and economic benefits to our communities, while simultaneously contributing to U.S. energy independence and job creation.”
Maintaining healthy forests can contribute to U.S. energy independence, stimulate the creation of jobs, and provide multiple environmental and social benefits. The letter describes each agency’s work in this area and their intent to continue to collaborate across the federal government, with industrial partners, states, tribes, local governments, and non-governmental organizations to ensure that biomass plays a key role in addressing the energy needs of the U.S. in an environmentally and economically beneficial way.
Today’s letter ensures the agencies’ actions moving forward will provide certainty to rural communities and the forest industry while supporting economic growth.
On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 1625), where Congress explicitly directed EPA, USDA, and DOE to establish policies that “reflect the carbon neutrality of forest biomass for energy production, provided the use of biomass for energy does not result in the conversion of forested lands to non-forest use.” It also emphasized the importance of the United States’ forest sector to the energy needs of our country.
EPA, USDA, and DOE believe the goals of H.R. 1625 are consistent with and complementary to the President’s 2017 Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which emphasizes utilizing domestic sources of energy that are affordable, reliable, safe, secure, and clean.
On April 23, 2018, EPA issued a policy statement making clear that future regulatory actions will treat biomass from managed forests will be treated as carbon neutral when such biomass is used for energy production at stationary sources.