February 20, 2012

Wash. State Senate passes biomass bill

The Legacy Biomass Bill (SB 5575) has passed through the Washington State Senate with an overwhelming majority vote of 45-1.

The bill, sponsored by State Senator Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, will alter a 2006 initiative that excluded biomass facilities in operation before 1999 from being considered renewable energy producers. If passed by the House, the bill will also include materials such as yard waste, food waste, food processing residues and black liquor generated from the pulping and wood manufacturing process as eligible biomass products that would help meet the 2006 Initiative 937. The initiative called for public utility providers with 25,000 or more customers to meet energy conservation targets while using renewable energy resources, or to purchase renewable energy credits. Under I-937, large utility providers much generate at least 3 percent of their output from renewable energy, and 9 percent by 2016. Hatfield’s bill will start in 2016.
SB 5575 would allow facilities in operation before 1999 that produce energy with one of the newly added biomass sources to qualify for 937.The bill is the culmination of a five-year work period recognizing that the quest for renewable energy is as much about maintaining jobs as it is about energy, according to Hatfield. He said the bill will help electric utilities and major industries in the state’s rural communities reduce the cost associated with I-937. “It will allow biomass generation—power generated from wood waste—to qualify as a power source that can be used by electric utilities to more cost effectively meet their obligations under I-937,” he said. He added that it will sustain industries that include people who harvest timber and transport it in trucks to mills, people who work at the mills, and those who buy power from the electric utilities.

“We must maintain our state’s commitment to renewable energy,” said State Senator Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters. “This proposal better fits the energy, economic and ecological needs of our state. We have the chance to make changes that not only reward the pursuit of renewable energy, but also make the law more efficient for businesses.”

Hatfield praised the bill’s inclusion of black liquor, and hog fuel, as a qualified renewable biomass product, pointing to the Longview Fiber facility that may save up to 1,000 jobs by using black liquor as a biomass feedstock for potential electricity generation. A portion of the bill also allows industrial customers who earned renewable energy credits prior to 1999 to sell those credits back to their utilities providers.

Ranker also recently voiced his support for SB 5343, a bill that would exempt certain power generators from Clean Air Act requirements. Through the bill, generators fueled solely by biogas produced from anaerobic digesters would be exempt, as long as the biogas contains less than 0.1 percent sulfur, the aggregate heat input to the generator does not exceed 10 million Btu per hour, and the generator is not located in a federally designated nonattainment area for hazardous air pollutants.

“Anaerobic digesters are an exciting form of renewable energy that recognizes the important contributions agriculture is making to our communities and to our future,” Ranker said. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 41-6.

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