Forest owners have responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP) with an appeal to Congress for greater certainty. Private forests are well-positioned to provide our nation with long-term carbon benefits, including the use of biomass as a renewable energy source. However, the CPP extends confusion and uncertainty around biomass, prompting forest owners to call on Congress to affirm the carbon benefits of biomass in federal policy.
“The CPP's approach to biomass is out of step with the prevailing view in Congress,” said Dave Tenny, NAFO President and CEO. “It seems to disregard the strong bipartisan position of 200 Members of Congress in both the House and Senate urging EPA and other Federal agencies to adopt a clear and simple policy on biomass carbon neutrality. It's time for Congress to step in and affirm the carbon benefits of renewable forest biomass once and for all so forest owners, energy producers and states can have the certainty they need.”
On June 30, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and 44 other Senators sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging recognition of forest biomass as carbon neutral in forthcoming policy. On July 31, Representatives Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) sent a similar bipartisan letter signed by 154 Members of the House of Representatives.
Tenny added: “The science on the carbon neutrality of forest biomass is extensive and well-established in support of a clear and practical policy. Yet, instead of providing the clarity so badly needed at this critical juncture, the Clean Power Plan creates more process, complexity and confusion that will only extend the uncertainty riddling the biomass community. Policy uncertainty jeopardizes existing investment in biomass and discourages new investment to build or upgrade facilities. It also keeps states guessing at the very time they need clarity to meet tight implementation deadlines.”
The carbon benefits of forest biomass are well established:
- One hundred nationally recognized forest scientists sent a letter to EPA on November 6, 2014, reaffirming the long-term carbon benefits of forest bioenergy.
- Regularly collected USDA data show that U.S. timberlands are growing at more than twice the rate of harvests. The total volume of trees in U.S. forests has increased 50% in the past 60 years.
- Scientists and carbon experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture conclude that strong markets improve the long-term carbon benefits of biomass energy.
- Biomass markets, like other forest products markets, enable private forests to afford forest management that sustains carbon benefits over the long term. EPA data show that carbon storage in U.S. forests offset 15% of total U.S. CO2 emissions annually.
“The CPP's approach to biomass is also out of step with the prevailing view in Congress,” Tenny said. “It is seems to ignore the strong bipartisan position of both the House and Senate that EPA adopt a clear and simple policy on biomass carbon neutrality. It's time for Congress to step in and affirm the carbon benefits of renewable forest biomass once and for all so forest owners, energy producers and states can have the certainty they need.”
NAFO is an organization of private forest owners committed to advancing national policies that promote the economic and environmental benefits of privately-owned forests. NAFO membership encompasses more than 80 million acres of private forestland in 47 states. Working forests in the U.S. support 2.4 million jobs.