The state House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill to include decades-old wood waste incinerators and boilers at pulp mills as renewable energy.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, now awaits Gov. Chris Gregoire’s signature to become law. It is expected to allow Weyerhaeuser Co., Longview Fibre Paper & Packaging Inc. and other pulp producers to earn millions of dollars in renewable, long-term energy sales.
Senate Bill 5575 would soften regulations of voter-approved Initiative 937 to count additional sources of biomass as renewable energy. Black liquor and hog fuel, both byproducts of pulping used for power generation by the industry for decades, would be counted as renewables under the legislation. The bill also allows biomass boilers and incinerators built before 1999 to count as new renewable developments.
A similar bill from Hatfield stalled in the House last year, largely because of opposition from environmentalists. This year, Hatfield limited pulp producers’ ability to sell the power on the open market, and conservation groups dropped their opposition.
The House approved the bill 89-9. Earlier this month, the legislation passed the Senate 45-1.
“This is a great day for rural economies in Washington. Without this bill, mills that have been in operation for decades and provide hundreds of jobs would have faced an uphill climb to remain open,” Hatfield said in a written statement.
I-937 requires large utilities statewide to boost renewable-energy development or buy renewable-energy credits on the market. This year, 3 percent of all utilities’ total load must come from renewables. The target jumps to 9 percent in 2016, when Hatfield’s bill would take effect. The final mandate of 15 percent is triggered in 2020.