Reps. Foushee, Thompson Introduce Legislation to Assess Emissions from Forest Biomass Combustion

Jul 01, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC (July 1, 2024) — Congresswoman Valerie Foushee (NC-04) and Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-02) introduced H.R. 8618, The Forest Biomass Emissions Act of 2024, legislation that would require the United States Environmental Protection Agency to study the greenhouse gas and community effects of forest biomass combustion for electricity generation. The bill is the House companion to Senate legislation introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) earlier this year.

Across the South, forest biomass industrial areas have been expanding to low-income or majority-Black communities, posing greater potential environmental and health risks for these historically marginalized communities. The Forest Biomass Emissions Act will examine the impact these industrial areas have on air quality, noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and public health of communities in close proximity to these sites.

“With an increased presence of wood pellet biomass mills across the country, it is critical for the federal government to fully examine and analyze the potential environmental and health impacts biomass combustion has on surrounding communities,” said Representative Valerie Foushee (NC-04). “Low-income and minority communities bear the brunt of environmental hazards, and the Forest Biomass Emissions Act will help protect these communities from potential pollutants that are harmful to human health and the environment. As we continue to move towards sustainable sources of energy, we must ensure we do not place historically marginalized communities at risk in the name of progress.”

“Low-income and minority communities often face the greatest environmental risks, and this legislation will safeguard these communities from possible hazardous pollutants detrimental to human health and our local communities,” said Representative Bennie Thompson (MS-02).

“Low-income and minority communities often bear the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards and injustices, and the harms from forest biomass facilities are no exception,” said Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ). “Examining the impact of biomass combustion on air quality, public health, and the climate will help us craft equitable environmental policies that address these issues in tandem. All Americans, regardless of their zip code, should be protected from the devastating effects of environmental degradation.”

“Burning biomass for energy to purportedly meet our decarbonization climate goals without fully accounting for how burning biomass pollutes our air, harms fenceline communities, and emits more carbon than coal is irresponsible and deeply misleading,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). “We can’t externalize the air pollution generated by burning woody biomass that disproportionately harms Black, brown, and low income communities. We must continue to work toward the true goal of climate justice.”

“Understanding greenhouse gas emissions and their sources is critical to tackling the climate crisis and improving the health and welfare of our communities. This legislation will help us learn more about biomass energy production so we can take steps to better safeguard our public health, our climate, and our economy,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Specifically, the Forest Biomass Emissions Act would:

  • Evaluate impacts the forest biomass industry has on communities in close proximity: Within one year of enactment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must carry out studies analyzing the impacts of noise, dust, air pollutants, and hazardous pollutants that originate from biomass pellet mills on communities located near these facilities.
  • Take into account the full impact of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions: Requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take into account the full life cycle of greenhouse gas emissions stemming from forest biomass combustion to produce electricity when enacting relevant rules and regulations.
  • Report findings to relevant House and Senate Committees: Findings from the study must be submitted to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board, and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce no later than 60 days after the date on which the study is completed.

The full bill text can be found here.

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