Bioeconomy Bill Advances in MN Legislature

A bill that would establish a set of production incentives for commercial deployment of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals and biomass heat was heard and passed out of two committees in the Minnesota legislatures on February 18th. HF 536/SF 517 is a legislative proposal supported by the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota, which Great Plains Institute facilities and coordinates.

You can learn more about HF 536/SF 517 by reading a previous blog post when the bill was introduced in early February.

HF 536 made its first committee stop in the House Agriculture Policy Committee.  Full audio from the committee hearing is available here. Prior to hearing HF 536, the committee received updates from the MN Department of Agriculture on Petroleum Replacement Promotion and Biodiesel.  Discussion on HF 536 begins at 30:52.

The committee heard supportive testimony from:

  • Brendan Jordan, Great Plains Institute – Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota
  • Brigid Tuck, University of Minnesota Extension
  • Larry Novakoske, Central MN Renewables
  • Anna Boroff, Minnesota Corn Growers Association
  • Doug Busselman, Minnesota Farm Bureau

SF 517 was heard in Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development. Video from the committee hearing is available here. The committee comes to order at the 9:00 minute mark in the video. SF 517 was first on the agenda.

The committee heard supportive testimony from:

  • Brendan Jordan, Great Plains Institute – Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota
  • Brigid Tuck, University of Minnesota Extension
  • John Warren, Central MN Renewables - Green Biologics
  • Doug Busselman, Minnesota Farm Bureau

Both committees heard testimony from company representatives of the Central MN Renewables (CMR) project. CMR is a project of Green Biologics, a member of the Bioeconomy Coalition. Central MN Renewables is repurposing the Central Minnesota Ethanol Cooperative (CMEC) in Little Falls to produce acetone n-butanol and ethanol. Acetone and n-butanol are renewable chemicals and will be used to replace petroleum-based chemicals in consumer products such as paints, ink, toner, and personal care products like nail polish and cosmetics. Committee members heard how community members have invested in the CMR project, which provides community stability and continuity for farmers who sell corn to the plant. A handout on the CMR project was distributed to committee members.

In addition to the opportunity of new markets for existing facilities, the ability of Minnesota to attract new commercial bioindustrial development and all the economic activity associated with development, HF 536/SF 517 will also result in positive benefits for our environment.

The bill contains strong provisions to address sustainability. Those provisions include:

  • Biofuel production must follow an approved EPA pathway for “advanced” biofuel, which requires meeting a 50 percent GHG reduction relative to gasoline;
  • 20 percent bonus payment for the use of perennial biomass, residues managed with cover crops, or biomass from cover crops;
  • Forestry biomass must come from certified land (Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council, American Tree Farm System), or land following other sustainability guidelines (Minnesota Logger Education Program, state biomass harvesting BMPs); and
  • Requires facilities using agricultural biomass to submit a “responsible biomass sourcing plan” that will detail how agricultural biomass will be produced and managed in a way that preserves soil quality, does not increase soil and nutrient run-off, avoids introduction of harmful invasive species and reduces GHG emissions.

You can learn more about the opportunities and strategies to effectively manage agriculture biomass by reading a previous blog post on a feedstock sustainability meeting GPI hosted at the University of Minnesota in December 2014.

Next the bill moves to the Agriculture Finance committee in the House and the Energy & Environment committee in the Senate. We will continue to work closely with our chief authors to schedule the next set of hearings on the bill. We are also actively working to build support with additional key legislators on the bill as it currently stands.  Overall, we are very pleased with the strong showing of support in individual meetings with legislators and by members of the committees where the bill was just heard. There is a lot of positive momentum and the Bioeconomy Coalition believes that if this bill is passed it will make Minnesota one of the best places in the world to produce advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals and biomass heat.