FRA Issue Update - 5/24/19

Renewable Fuel Standard

This week, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Angus King (I-ME) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced legislation that amends the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to qualify a broader universe of forest-based biomass that is currently excluded from the mandate. The legislation includes the following three components:

  • Private Lands: Currently, the biomass definition in the RFS is limited to only biomass derived from tree plantations. As we know, tree plantations are prevalent in the U.S. South, but not in other areas of the country. This bill removes the explicit reference to fiber from tree plantations, thereby introducing a larger basket of biomass material that can qualify for the mandate and creating new markets for low-value timber.  
  • Mill Residuals: The legislation ensures that mill residuals, like sawdust and shavings, which are derived from fiber sourced from both federal and non-federal lands may be used for biofuels and qualify for RFS credits. Under current law, mill residuals can only count for RFS credits if the residuals come from timber off of private plantations. In many instances, mills use fiber sourced from both public and private lands, which means sawdust and shavings are commingled and therefore ineligible for RFS credits. This bill rectifies this discrepancy.  
  • Federal Lands: The bill allows biomass sourced from certain federal lands to qualify for RFS credits. This change will help fund projects to reduce dead and dying trees that fuel catastrophic wildfires and helps thin out unhealthy second-growth forests. Under this new definition, biomass materials harvested from federal lands must be done in accordance with all federal laws, regulations, and land-use plans and designations. In addition, the bill prioritizes biomass removal from projects that aim to address insect and disease infested forests and treat areas prone to wildfires.

Safe Routes Act

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI-07) added his name to the list of cosponsors this week. The legislation now boasts six cosponsors that have joined Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) in this effort. The bill (H.R. 2453) continues to enjoy balanced bipartisan support with 4 Republicans and 3 Democrats lending their name to the legislation.