Assembly Bill 1519, authored by Assembly Member James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus), seeks to create a new state program to offset the costs of transporting fuel to biomass energy facilities.
AB 1519 requires the Natural Resources Agency to provide grants or other financial incentives to conduct forest fuel reduction projects that minimize wildfire risk or decrease wildfire intensity in or around communities in the wildland urban interface. Subsidies would range from $20 per bone dry ton for projects less than 20 miles from a biomass facility, up to $30 per bone dry ton for projects over 30 miles away from a biomass facility.
AB 1519 will help local governments overcome some of the financial barriers to getting residuals out of the forest. A recent field study indicates that biomass energy generation results in 98-99 percent lower PM2.5, carbon monoxide, methane, and black carbon emissions compared to open pile burning (along with a significant reduction in NOx and carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions). By funding the transportation of fuels to biomass facilities, AB 1519 will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
Most importantly, AB 1519 will help communities in the wildland urban interface undertake fuel reduction projects that will reduce local wildfire risk and intensity. After the state’s worst fire year on record, this gives California an opportunity to explore new programs like the one envisioned in AB 1519 to help improve safety while providing significant environmental benefits.