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Rep. Garamendi Introduces “Biomass and Biogas for Electric Vehicles Act”

WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced the “Biomass and Biogas for Electric Vehicles Act.” This legislation would allow biomass facilities generating renewable electricity to finally participate in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. 

“I have long supported a utility-scale subsidy for biomass electricity to incentivize proper forest management and much-needed hazardous fuels reduction in fire-prone states like California. As California and neighboring states face increasingly severe and year-round fire seasons, this will help to reduce the artificially high levels of biomass on our forestlands due to man-made climate change, drought, invasive species like bark beetle outbreaks, and years of mismanagement,” said Congressman Garamendi (D-CA). “Renewable electricity from biomass and biogas helps reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emission and transition to a clean energy economy. While these measures alone will not solve the climate crisis or prevent all catastrophic wildfires, they are undoubtedly part of the solution. That’s why I’m introducing the ‘Biomass and Biogas for Electric Vehicles Act.’”

“State foresters see the Renewable Fuel Standard as an underutilized but important tool for supporting forest products markets,” said Christopher Martin, president of the National Association of State Foresters and state forester of Connecticut. “Forest markets, like those for biomass, are essential to maintaining healthy and resilient forests nationwide. Unfortunately, in the decade since the RFS was passed by Congress, the EPA has not developed a pathway to generate RINs on electricity produced from woody biomass. Representative Garamendi’s Biomass and Biogas for Electric Vehicles Act would facilitate RFS biomass project development by lifting federal lands restrictions on multiple biomass feedstocks and clarifying the renewable biomass electricity pathway.”

In passing the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-140), Congress made electricity from renewable biomass—including biogas and waste-to-energy from eligible feedstocks such as separated yard or food waste—eligible under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Despite years of Congressional urging, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has yet to approve a single biomass facility under the program. Some pending applications for biomass electricity—known as “pathway petitions” under the RFS program—have been pending now for more than 7 years.

Currently, the USEPA requires facilities to prove with perfect traceability that the electricity generated is used as a transportation fuel to participate in the RFS program. Most biomass facilities are simply selling electricity into the grid and, therefore, cannot prove definitively that each electron generated is used exclusively by electric vehicles.

The “Biomass and Biogas for Electric Vehicles Act” (H.R.5899) would:

·        Direct the USEPA to extrapolate the percentage of total U.S. electricity generation used for charging electric vehicles. The USEPA would then set a quarterly quota for each biomass facility registered under the RFS program, limited by each facility’s maximum design capacity.

·        Grandfather any renewable biomass, biogas, or waste-to-energy facilities that can prove definitively the electricity generated is used as transportation fuel, such those with on-site electric vehicle charging stations.

·        Require that USEPA review all pending applications for renewable electricity under the RFS program in a timely manner and make a final decision. Some applications have been pending now for more than 7 years.

·        Require that USEPA post the status of each pending application (for renewable electricity online, including the date submitted, reviewed, and decided.

·        Allow USEPA to collect a reasonable fee from industry to cover the costs of reviewing any applications for renewable electricity submitted under the RFS program. In a 2016 “advance notice of proposed rulemaking,” USEPA mentioned inadequate staffing and agency resources as major impediments to approval of biomass electricity under the RFS program. This fee-for-service model is based off USEPA’s regulatory regime for the pesticide industry, which is widely regarded as successful and enjoys broad-based support in Congress.

·        Incentivize USEPA to approve pending applications within 1 calendar year, or risk having the fee refunded at the request of the applicant. USEPA would still be required to process the application (pathway petitions and/or facility registration) even after the applicant’s feed is refunded.

·        Allow USEPA to waive application fees for municipally-owned renewable electricity facilities.

·        Make biomass from federal forestlands eligible under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Current law restricts biomass from the National Forest System and other forestlands administered by federal land management agencies from qualifying under the RFS program.

The following organizations have endorsed the “Biomass and Biogas for Electric Vehicles Act” (H.R.5899): RFS Power Coalition, Biomass Power Association, American Biogas Council, Energy Recovery Council, National Association of State Foresters

The full text of the legislation is available here.

A section-by-section summary of the legislation is available upon request.

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