Biomass fuel becomes energy resource for qualified utilities

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Wednesday legislation that would give financially distressed biomass processing facilities and pulp and paper mills a break from compliance rules dealing with the expensive process of clean-energy conversion.

  • Thursday, March 8, 2012 1:43pm
  • News

By Raechel Dawson
WNPA Olympia News Bureau

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Wednesday legislation that would give financially distressed biomass processing facilities and pulp and paper mills a break from compliance rules dealing with the expensive process of clean-energy conversion.

Prime sponsor Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, was prime sponsor of Senate bill 5575, which calls for a change in the 2006 voter-approved Energy Independence Act (Initiative 937) to further define what biomass-elements may constitute renewable resources.

“In terms of saying legacy biomass — hog fuel, black liquor — is renewable, it means those mills now have a little bit more stability in their business’ bottom line,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield explained that Longview Fibre mill, one of the eligible biomass facilities, has investments contingent on getting this bill passed. According to Hatfield, there are around 1,000 people working at that facility.

Republican Floor Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, supported this act because, he said, he has been a long-time advocate of the wood-products industry.

Voters passed I-937 in 2006, which requires electric utilities with 25,000 or more customers to meet a mandate that 15 percent of the utility’s energy consumption is “clean energy” by 2020 through a transition process.

This year was the first incremental phase these utilities had to reach, a required 3 percent.

Specific renewable resources, like biomass and hydropower, were limited or exempt from being a proper resource, under terms of the initiative.

I-937 urged energy independence through the transition to the use of new, cost-effective renewable resources.

Wind and solar power energy top the list of qualified resources, but geothermal energy, landfill and sewage gas, wave and tidal power and specific biodiesel fuels are also eligible renewable resources under the initiative.

Mary Moore, energy and climate change lobbyist for the League of Women Voters, said that the new law goes against the whole point of I-937’s intent, which was to encourage the use of alternative sources of energy along with the investment in those sources, which may be reduced as a result of the law.

Biomass energy is created from organic material, which, according to the Department of Agriculture, may cut-down American reliance on imported energy because biomass energy can be replenished.

The proposed bill would define biomass as:

• Organic by-products of pulping and the wood manufacturing process

• Untreated wooden demolition or construction debris (not including treated wood),

• Yard waste and food processing residuals,

• Animal manure

• Liquor derived from algae and

• “Qualified biomass energy” as appropriate biomass fuels.According to the new law, “qualified biomass energy” is electricity manufactured from a biomass energy facility and would be limited for use starting Jan. 1, 2016, to meet I-937 standards.

In addition, the law allows “black liquor by-product from paper production” to be an eligible biomass product under I-937.

The bill received near-unanimous support from the Senate, and Passed the House 89-9. Assistant House Majority Whip, Rep. Fred Finn, D-Olympia, was one of the nine voting against the measure.

More in News

Kent Police board Metro bus in search for boy with gun

Teen not found in Wednesday incident after spotted with gun

Reminder: Highway 167 to close overnight in Kent June 25-28

Between South 212th Street and 84th Avenue exits

Career fair at SHAG Tuesday in Tukwila

A variety of open positions are available, bring your resume and references.

New on the block: a mystical creature takes wing

The Guardian is latest public art sculpture on display in downtown Kent

After Seattle’s controversial employee head tax was repealed, King County Executive Dow Constantine wants to bond against existing tax revenues to generate $100 million for affordable housing. Photo by Joe Mabel/Wikipedia Commons
County executive proposes $100 million affordable housing bond

The money was already coming, but Constantine wants to speed up the process.

Kent City Council OKs $2 million for Puget Sound Gateway project

Extension of SR 509 to I-5 between Kent, SeaTac

Kent Police arrest man for fatal shooting of woman on West Hill

18-year-old Des Moines woman found Saturday along wooded trail

Most Read