Biomass Removals from Public Lands Help Reduce Wildfires
Suppliers May Qualify for BCAP Delivery Assistance
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today announced that Eagle Valley Clean Energy, LLC in Gypsum has been selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to accept biomass deliveries as part of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The removal of dead or diseased trees from public lands is a crucial piece of the strategy to reduce the risk of wildfires in Colorado and across the West and helps generate clean energy.
Eagle Valley Clean Energy is one of 36 energy facilities in 14 states to be selected. The renewable energy plant in Gypsum also benefitted from a $40 million loan guarantee from USDA’s Rural Development initiative, a program Bennet fought to include in the 2014 Farm Bill.
“Biomass may not be what you typically think about when it comes to Colorado’s abundant energy resources, but this is an innovative way to generate clean energy while reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires,” Bennet said. “These efforts support local businesses, promote a clean energy economy, and protect our forests and communities from the threat of wildfires. These are the types of investments that will get us out of the vicious cycle of needing to devote so many resources to wildfire suppression without addressing mitigation and preparedness.”
BCAP was authorized as part of the 2014 Farm Bill that Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, helped craft with the input of Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, and conservation community. Of the total $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) is available each year to assist biomass owners with the cost of delivery of agricultural or forest residues for energy generation. Some BCAP payments will target the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands for renewable energy, which reduces the risk of forest fire.
Farmers, ranchers or foresters who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a BCAP-qualified energy facility may be eligible for financial assistance for deliveries. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers BCAP, will begin accepting applications from biomass owners from July 28 through Aug. 25. Deliveries of residues for approved contracts may be made through Sept. 26, 2014.
Bennet has fought to secure resources for wildfires and to focus attention on the importance of fire preparedness efforts. He recently urged congress to support emergency funding for wildfire mitigation, and introduced legislation with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) to provide a funding stream for FEMA and the U.S. Forest Service to award competitive grants to states for projects related to mitigation and preparedness.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Bennet was instrumental in including the National Forest Insect and Disease Treatment Act in the Farm Bill. He also secured several other provisions designed to reduce the risk of wildfire into the Farm Bill, including the permanent reauthorization of stewardship contracting and the nationwide expansion of “good neighbor” authority. Last November, he chaired a subcommittee hearing entitled “Shortchanging Our Forests: How Tight Budgets and Management Decisions Can Increase the Risk of Wildfire” to discuss the importance of mitigation work.