Bruce Ross, District Manager for 1st District Assembly Member Brian Dahle, spoke to the Rotary Club of Burney-Fall River on Thursday, September 1. The main topic of discussion was the negotiation of a new contract between PG&E on Burney Forest Power.
While a contract is still in negotiation, a hopeful hurdle has been crossed with passage by the California State Legislature of SB 859, which among other language has provisions concerning the use of woody biomass such as:
This bill would require the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to establish a working group on expanding wood product markets that can utilize woody biomass, especially biomass removed from high hazard zones, as determined by the department.
The bill was passed just before the end of the state’s legislative session Thursday morning.
The inclusion of a requirement that energy companies buy biomass energy was furthered by the states current “dead tree crisis.” Dead wood adds fuel to forest fires. It is reasonable to harvest the wood for energy to decrease the risk of fires.
Regarding the passage of the bill, Paul Moreno, PG&E spokesman said:
PG&E supported SB 859.We are sensitive to the hardship that drought, fires and bark beetle have caused to forests, leading to extensive damage and creation of fuel.
We see this as a statewide issue and are working to find cooperative and holistic solutions to the issues of forest health.
SB 859 will ensure that all benefitting customers in California support the state’s efforts to work through this difficult and challenging time. We urge the Governor to sign the bill, and we look forward to working with the legislature, biomass industry and other stakeholders to quickly implement the requirements at the Public Utilities Commission and secure our proportionate share of the required biomass energy. We will review the bids received as part of the existing BioRAM program as we seek to contract for the additional megawatts provided for under this bill and hope to move as expeditiously as possible knowing the situation a number of existing biomass facilities face.
The bill will most likely be signed by Gov. Brown. Nothing is certain yet. Contract negotiations between PG&E and Burney Forest Power are still in progress. However, if all goes well a new contract could be agreed upon by early October or sooner
Danny Osborne, Sales Manager and Vice President for Shasta Green, was also at the Rotary meeting in Burney when Ross spoke. He told those present that are beginning to increase the number of logs they have been receiving back to normal levels. Osbourne also said he thought that the energy output produced and sold by Burney Forest Power could possibly increase to 50 megawatts.
On another issue, Mike Kerns asked Ross about the passage of Bill AB 2024 concerning the hiring of doctors by Critical Access Hospitals. This bill, which passed, allows federally certified Critical Access Hospitals such as Mayers Memorial to hire doctors.
Ross also noted that AB 72, which requires out-of-network medical bills to conform to a standard rate set by the state so as to decrease “surprise bills” from medical professionals not directly covered by a person’s insurance company’s approved network, was also passed this year.
This article will appear in a print version in the Mountain Echo on September 6.