May 14, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, announced today that he has introduced two pieces of legislation that would encourage and safeguard the use of Maine’s natural resources to generate renewable electricity. The Working Forests for Clean Energy Act would ensure that emissions generated from sustainably-harvested biomass would be considered carbon neutral under the President’s proposed Clean Power Plan, and the Small Hydropower Dependable Regulatory Order (Small HyDRO) Act of 2015 would streamline a cumbersome federal licensing process for hydroelectric dams.
“Maine’s natural resources offer promising opportunities to generate clean, renewable electricity,” Senator King said. “But the success of those opportunities depends on the effectiveness of federal policies and, right now, policies from Washington are hurting more than they’re helping. By setting an appropriate carbon standard for biomass and by streamlining the burdensome licensing process for dams, these bills would give badly-needed certainty to states and help preserve and create home-grown, diverse, and sustainable energy resources.”
The Working Forests for Clean Energy Act
In June 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Clean Power Plan, an initiative that sets federal standards for states to achieve a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030. However, in considering sources of carbon emission, the EPA did not definitively address biomass, which is used to generate nearly one-third of electricity in Maine. And while a non-binding EPA memo did indicate that the agency may consider biomass emissions carbon neutral, it has not codified any rules that would provide certainty needed for states or the forest products industry.
To address that, the Working Forests for Clean Energy Act would provide a straightforward standard to account for emissions from biomass sources. Under the legislation, provided that a federal analysis determines that national forest stocks are stable or increasing, biomass emissions would then be considered carbon neutral. Additionally, biomass derived from mill or harvest residuals, or waste from forest management activities, would also be considered carbon neutral. The standard will provide certainty to states and the forest products industry, helping ensure that a diverse market for domestic forest products can continue while also safeguarding against the widespread harvesting of forests to create electricity without any regard to the sustainability of the stock.
The Small Hydropower Dependable Regulatory Order (Small HyDRO) Act of 2015
Maine is home to approximately nine-hundred dams that were recently surveyed for increased hydropower potential, all of which have to be licensed through a federal process that can be cumbersome, lengthy, and often-times, expensive. In fact a recent report on hydropower in Maine determined that, due to these regulatory hurdles, only 47 of those dams were viable economic candidates to add additional electricity-generating capability, which means that almost 850 dams in Maine have wasted potential – and cost money to maintain.
The Small HyDRO Act of 2015 would help streamline the licensing process for hydroelectric dams by requiring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to render a decision on a license application within 180 days with a rebuttable presumption that the license will be issued. In effect, the legislation would help eliminate unnecessary regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of generating clean, reliable electricity at existing dams with no additional environmental impact.