On Saturday, Feb. 11, Sen. Brian Hatfield spoke on the floor of the Washington State Senate in support of SB 5575, the Legacy Biomass bill:
“We’ve been working on this bill for so long, I just want to remind you all of what it actually DOES… We’re trying to help communities that have been dealing with double-digit unemployment for years, since long before the recession.
“This bill today is the culmination of over five years of work and cooperation by those who recognize that the quest for renewable energy is as much about maintaining jobs in our state as it is about energy.
“As you all know, the timber industry in our state has been suffering through a period of closures and reductions. With fewer trees being harvested, the need for mills has been in decline. In the last year, the Grays Harbor community saw the closure of the Grays Harbor Paper facility – at the time, one of the few remaining paper mills in our state and a major employer for the Aberdeen-Hoquiam community. Impacts of changes in the pulp and timber industry were to blame for that shut down, but we need to do more to ensure that these facilities, which provide family wage jobs for hundreds and a backbone for their respective communities, are not threatened.
“Obviously, there are external pressures, like globalization and federal laws that have impacted the industry, but we must ensure that we are doing all we can as a State government to protect those jobs.
“In 2006, the passage of Initiative 937 required that electric utilities acquire renewable energy resources to meet 15-percent of their load. Now while this initiative has had some positive impacts with jobs created by other renewable energy sources like wind generation, it has also threatened the viability of major employers in rural communities – employers that are responsible for hundreds of jobs.
“The bill before you today, Substitute Senate Bill 5575 will help electric utilities and major industries in these rural communities to reduce the cost of 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. It will sustain industry that includes those who harvest timber, those who transport it in trucks to mills and those who work at the mills. And it will help those of us who buy power from the electric utilities that serve that industry.
“One of the main points of this bill is to erase an arbitrary date set in I-937 which said mills in operation prior to March 31, 1999, were not eligible to use their biomass facilities to count toward the requirements of I-937. As I said, this was an arbitrary number that is having a significant impact on sustaining jobs in rural areas of Washington. Under this bill, pre-1999 biomass facilities will be eligible if they are owned or directly interconnected to a qualifying utility. The utility could count only the amount of old biomass needed to meet that industrial customer’s proportionate share of the utility’s annual renewable target. Excess power cannot be traded or sold for purposes of meeting I-937.
“In addition, by products of paper production, known as black liquor (which is a biomass fuel), will now be eligible under SSB 5575 to be considered a biomass product. In using these organic by-products of pulping and the wood manufacturing process, more than 1,000 jobs at the Longview Fiber facility may be saved. Without that allowance they would not be eligible to bid on requests for proposals seeking renewable energy and that puts them at a huge disadvantage. There is ample precedent for black liquor to be considered: several states already consider pulping liquors as renewable, so why not Washington?
“Along with those organic by-products of pulping and wood manufacturing, yard waste, food waste and food processing residues, and liquors derived from algae and other sources will be eligible to be considered as biomass.
“This is one of the most important bills on job creation that will come before the Senate this session. Rural communities have been struggling to maintain the jobs that have been their driving for force for years. In passing this bill, we can be both responsible stewards of the environment and support those communities who need to keep those jobs now, more than ever.
“I would like to thank all of those men and women who helped craft this bill, members of the environmental community and the timber industry who came together to craft a bill that meets their mutual needs and William Bridges who took all their suggestions and requests and produced a piece of legislation that will allow decades old facilities to continue to have a positive impact on their communities and begin to have an increasingly positive impact on the environment.
“I urge your support.”