Frisch began by stating over the last several years California has had a variety of impacts from wildfire. The 8-½ million acres burned across the state last year is really changing the forest composition. Fires over the last two years are starting to bring substantive changes in State policy regarding forest management. Frisch admitted that getting to a solution on this problem is probably the most difficult in California policy. He stated there was so much to go back and fix, undo or redo to get to a solution. Frisch said one of the key things we need to be thinking about in the long run is fire playing a more productive role. When it burns at a very low intensity it plays a role in thinning the understory and reduces future crown fires. Native Americans used to set fires to manage the landscape. He stated there is hundreds of millions of tons of material we need to find uses for. Frisch said there were three choices of what we could do with this biomass: leave in the forest, pile burn or use industrial processing. A study was done on the high hazard zones in California and there are 248 million BDT (bone dry tons) on 13.2 million acres. He gave an example that the Loyalton facility, if operating at full capacity, would use about 150,000 tons a year. Concerning carbon emissions, Frisch stated using a biomass facility has the least carbon emission levels than pile burning or leaving it in the forest. Other benefits in using the biomass reduces wildfire risk, improves watershed quality, increases fire resilience, reduces particulate emissions during a fire, high paying year 'round jobs in natural resource communities, baseload power generation, and improves air quality. Frisch stated some of SBC’s goals are to educate decision makers, and shift public policy to support biomass.
He added, this is SBC’s top public policy objective, with more than half of its staff working on this effort. Frisch said this is probably the single most important issue that we are facing in the Sierra Nevada and requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.
They have been coordinating with state and industry groups and talked about some of the work they have been doing with American Renewable Power in Loyalton. Fuel supply problems have to do with pricing in the contracting. Bio RAM 1 facilities pay a higher price for fuel because they get paid more for power. ARP did not have the opportunity to be a Bio RAM 1 facility and is a Bio RAM 2 facility, which gets paid less. Frisch talked of the need for transportation subsidies to help get the fuel out of the biomass, but can’t count on them so that’s why it’s so important for the long term fix on the Bio RAM identification. Frisch stated SBC was meeting with ARP the following day to ask for the Governor’s direct intervention on this issue. He continued and said that SBC has been supporting the study process of the Tahoe Central Sierra Initiative. Frisch stated the objective was to identity the fuel in that area and have a portion of that fuel come to Loyalton which would create a permanent supply of fuel to the facility. ARP is also in the process of trying to negotiate the salvage material from the Camp Fire to come here. Frisch said if that is successful it would be a two to two-and-a-half year supply, adding SBC’s large-scale goal is to get a permanent supply of fuel to ARP. Frisch talked about climate research grants and they are proposing to do a feasibility assessment for locating a biomass refinery in this area, which would fit perfect in Loyalton. Should that occur, wood biomass to biofuel is significantly less carbon intense and there is a payment system, which would help pay to operate the refinery. SBC is in the process of writing this grant and asked Sierra County to become a collaborator. Supervisor Sharon Dryden was happy they were making this a priority and Sierra County Planning Director Tim Beals wanted to get this issue on the next agenda to become a collaborator and asked what the county could do to help. Frisch stated the most valuable thing is to be in close communication.