Rep. Baird Says He Won't Support House Climate Bill

By Chris Kissel May 4, 2009


Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA, 3) reportedly said he won't support the comprehensive House energy bill currently being debated in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Baird's chief concern: The bill explicitly bans the use of "biomass energy"—energy derived from timber waste products like pulp and wood residue, a practice Baird has pushed hard for recently.

Rep. Baird is part of a group of Congressmembers from the area, including Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR, 2) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR, 4) pushing Congress to consider using forest biomass as an alternative to lower reliance on coal plants. Advocates also say using timber biomass would create jobs in depressed logging communities and clear deceased forests.

Opponents, which seems to mean Al Gore, argue that Rep. Baird's approach could lead to further deforestation. Also, some types of forest biomass like "black liquor" or "pulping liquor" are treated with chemicals that concern environmentalists.

Baird chaired a House Science and Technology Committee field briefing at the end of the Easter Congressional recess to make the case for timber biomass. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA,1) also took part in the meeting, and, according to Baird's office, came out talking positively about forest biomass in new climate legislation.

Rep. Inslee, a big supporter of alternative sources of energy, was a prime advocate of initiative I-937, which allowed wood waste to count as an alternative energy source, although it drew the line on the chemically treated pulping products.

Still, the comprehensive bill bans the use of timber biomass—something Rep. Baird probably can't change yet, since he isn't on the Committee that's debating the bill. Inslee, however, is, but it's unclear if he's willing to take up Baird's case. 

The comprehensive climate bill contains three proposals from Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA,1), one of which is a cap-and-trade scheme Baird also opposes—he prefers a carbon tax. No word from Baird's office as of this afternoon on whether Baird intends to pursue his own legislation on these issues.

Neither Inslee nor Baird's offices got back to me this morning.
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