On behalf of our members, their employees, rural Maine, and Mainers concerned about climate change, we would like to applaud and thank the Maine congressional delegation for obtaining passage of key portions of “The BTU Act” in the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 that passed Congress on Dec. 21 and was signed by the president this weekend.
This common-sense legislation finally provides Maine homeowners with the opportunity to install highly efficient modern wood heating appliances with the same federal tax credit (previously 30%, now apparently to be set at 26% for the next three years) afforded to other renewable technologies such as solar, wind, fuel cells and geothermal heating.
As background, the journey to pass this legislation began over seven years ago, when Sen. Angus King introduced the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act of 2013, with Sen. Susan Collins as lead co-sponsor. At that time, the senators stressed the economic benefits of heating with wood, but also the importance of parity with other renewable technologies. “When Mainers purchase wood, they’re directly contributing to the creation of jobs and the economic health of our state,” Sen. King noted in his May 22, 2013, press release. “I strongly support efforts to promote biomass, which directly benefits Maine’s economy.” stated Sen. Collins.
Since that time, as the effect of burning fossil fuels has aroused worldwide concern about climate impact, the benefit of switching to modern wood heating has been recognized as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, with strong support from Maine Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, the U.S. House of Representatives included the residential provisions of The BTU Act in energy and economic development legislation passed and sent to the Senate.
Subsequently, in a July 21 letter to congressional leadership, Collins and King wrote that, “while other clean and efficient technologies, including solar and wind, are recognized in the federal tax code, biomass heaters have not been included and we believe this to be an oversight.”
Maine — which is the most forested yet one of the most fossil fuel dependent states in the U.S. — has an abundance of low-grade wood that is ideal for creating sustainable heat energy without depleting our forest resource. This energy market is also critical for proper management of forest health, allowing low-grade wood to be cost-effectively removed where needed.
We are incredibly fortunate to have a united congressional delegation that is fully dedicated to the advancement of Maine’s forest economy. In light of all the challenges faced by loggers in 2020, we can’t thank our delegation enough for their leadership to ensure new markets are created for low value wood but also for protecting thousands of good paying jobs in rural Maine.
In a year that most of us would like to forget, we will always remember it as the time that Congress finally got wood right.
Dana Doran is executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine. William Bell is executive director of the Maine Pellet Fuels Association.