Recognizing certain biomass energy facilities as eligible renewable energy resources is as much about jobs as it is energy.
“What we’re doing is trying to save some mills, mostly in rural Washington,” said Hatfield, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development Committee. “We’re trying to help communities that have been dealing with double-digit unemployment for years, since long before the recession.”
Following the passage of Initiative 937 in 2006, public utility districts with 25,000 or more customers were required to meet targets for energy conservation and to use eligible renewable energy resources, either by acquiring eligible renewable resources for energy production or purchasing renewable energy credits. However, the initiative applied only to facilities constructed after March 31, 1999; facilities built before that date would be unable to sell the biomass energy generated in their power plants as renewable energy, putting them at a significant disadvantage.
“The date March 31, 1999, was an arbitrary number that is having a significant impact on sustaining jobs in rural areas of Washington,” Hatfield said. “The future of 29 jobs in Kettle Falls is impacted by that date for no reason that I know of that is worth risking those jobs.”
In addition to addressing qualified biomass energy, SB 5575 would add several biomass fuels to the I-937 list of eligible renewable resources, including organic by-products of pulping and the wood manufacturing process, also known as black liquor. Hatfield says that affects more than 1,000 jobs at the Longview Fiber facility.
“Since pulping liquors are not qualified as renewable resources under I-937, they can’t bid on requests for proposals seeking renewable energy and that puts them at a huge disadvantage,” said Hatfield. “Several states consider pulping liquors as renewable, so why not Washington?”
In addition to pulping liquids, SB 5575 would also recognize untreated wooden demolition or construction debris, yard waste and biosolids as eligible renewable resources under I-937.
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For more information: Ian Cope, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7535
For interviews: Sen. Brian Hatfield, 360-786-7636