2021 Minnesota Legislative Priorities: Bioeconomy
April 22, 2021 | Katelyn Bocklund | Policy
While the legislative session in Minnesota looks different this year due to the pandemic, our coalition remains committed to advocating for the bioeconomy. Like in previous years, fully funding the Minnesota Bioincentive Program remains our top priority. However, there are several other issues impacting the bioeconomy, including lack of markets for wood residuals and bug-infested waste wood, scaling up anaerobic digestion to help divert organics from landfills, and others where supportive policy is needed. Our coalition is working to advance the bioeconomy by tackling these issues.
Members of the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota policy committee are working hard to advocate for these legislative, regulatory, and administrative actions. The policy statements below reflect member priorities for the 2021 legislative session and are supported by the following members:
APEX, Area Partnership for Economic Expansion
Avisen Legal, P.A.
Center for Energy and Environment
City of Benson
Clean Energy Economy Minnesota
Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
Great River Energy
Partnership for Waste and Energy
Shawn Fletcher Trucking, Inc.
2021 Policy Priorities to Advance the Bioeconomy in Minnesota
Legislative & Regulatory Action:
- Fully fund the Minnesota Bioincentive Program. The Bioincentive Program is a performance-based incentive program. It offers no upfront dollars to projects in the form of grants or loans, and thus does not place the state at risk of paying for a project that fails to materialize. Instead, the company must first invest in a new project, build it, and produce eligible products. With this structure, the program is assured of paying for itself through increased jobs and economic impact in Minnesota. In 2019, seven companies drew on the program for a range of projects around the state of Minnesota, and the requested amount surpassed the allocated funding of $1.5 million in the fiscal year budget. While the allocated amount in the FY2020-21 budget has increased to $2.5 million per year, it is far below the amount required for projects that have already made investments in Minnesota. To properly support these projects and realize their economic and environmental benefits, the Bioincentive Program needs funding of about $10 million per year. The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota supports a fully funded Bioincentive Program in the supplementary budget for FY2021 so that Minnesota can make good on its commitment to companies that have already chosen to make investments in the state.
- Support markets for wood residuals and bug-infested waste wood. There are 200,000 tons of wood mill residuals without an end market in Minnesota, forcing some mills to stockpile their residuals. Additionally, wood waste is projected to increase from emerald ash borer and other bug-infested trees. Because of the specific restriction of movement and management required of emerald ash borer-contaminated wood, few end markets exist that can accept the material. Developing sustainable markets is essential to the long-term health of Minnesota’s existing wood industries and to long-term management of forested lands. One potential market for mill residuals is wood pellets, which can generate electricity through combustion. Wood pellet markets are growing overseas, particularly in Asia where incentives to transition from coal to wood pellets are being offered. The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota supports investing in research and development to help spur bioenergy markets that boost local economies around the state and lead to sustainable markets, including the development of a wood pellet incentive program.
- Support the advancement of anaerobic digestion projects that use organic material as a feedstock. Anaerobic digestion technology has been successful in other parts of the United States and Europe in processing source-separated and mechanically separated organics material into clean renewable energy products. The resulting biogas can be used on-site for electricity generation, upgraded partially for use in compressed natural gas for transportation vehicles, or upgraded to pipeline quality renewable natural gas for sale into low-carbon fuels markets or the Renewable Fuels Standard. In each case, biogas displaces the use of conventional fuels, resulting in significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota supports legislation, funding, and utility dockets that advance the development of anaerobic digestion projects utilizing organics material as a feedstock in Minnesota.
- Governor’s Council on Biofuels. Governor Walz signed Executive Order 19-35 on September 16, 2019 that established the Governor’s Council on Biofuels to advise on policy and budget proposals that foster the growth of Minnesota’s biofuels industry. The Council released recommendations to Governor Walz on November 2, 2020, which included support for increased biofuel blending, development of a clean fuels policy, increased biofuel use in Minnesota’s state fleet, increased public education on biofuels, and further development of advanced biofuels in the state. The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota agrees with the recommendations developed by the Council and supports administrative and legislative action to implement the recommendations.
Our coalition is working hard to achieve a successful legislative outcome, and we look forward to continued progress for the remainder of the legislative session.