Inside Olympia: Biochar Roaring Back
Following a year of work by Carbon Washington, an important and innovative policy to promote the use of biochar is moving forward in the Washington state Legislature, clearing the first committee last week unanimously, opening possibilities for sequestering carbon and fortifying farmland.
Biochar, a form of charcoal produced from biomass sources like forest deadfall, offers several environmental and agricultural benefits. For instance, it sequesters carbon in soils for hundreds and possibly thousands of years while also decreasing the amount of fuel for wildfires. Agriculture benefits from the nutrients biochar infuses in the soil, which increases crop yields.
Because of benefits like these, Carbon Washington identified biochar last year as an effective climate solution with potential for bi-partisan support. Despite a strong lobbying effort by board member Greg Rock, the bill came up short in 2018. However, that work laid the foundation for the Legislature to hit the ground running on biochar in 2019, and with HJM 4000 in the house and SJM 8005 in the senate each “supporting the continued research, development, production, and application of biochar from our forests and agricultural lands,” the legislation appears primed for passage.
“Last year’s memorial’s failure to get across the finish line was a blessing in disguise in that it forced another slew of legislative and stakeholder meetings on the topic, furthering its original educational goal,” Rock explained.
The bi-partisan support lining up behind the legislation this year provides additional hope for those of us who want to see common sense bipartisan climate solutions.
|Republican House Sponsors||Democratic House Sponsors|
|Matt Shea||Joe Fitzgibbon|
|Tom Dent||Roger Goodwin|
|Carolyn Eslick||Mike Sells|
|Drew Stokesbary||Steve Tharinger|
|Richard Debolt||Jake Fey|
|Jim Walsh||Cindy Ryu|
|Jacquelin Maycumber||Brian Blake|
|Joel Kretz||Beth Doglio|
|Jesse Young||Shelley Kloba|
|Senate Republican Sponsors||Senate Democratic Sponsors|
|Shelley Short||Kevin Van De Wege|
|Judy Warnick||Guy Palumbo|
|Sharon Brown||John McCoy|
|John Braun||Marko Liias|
|Mark Schoesler||Sam Hunt|
|Lynda Wilson||Claire Wilson|
|Ann Rivers||Christine Rolfes|
“We are hopeful it will get across the finish line quickly with the sponsors in both chambers, which include Senate Minority Leader Schoesler,” Rock added.
Along with the benefits biochar brings, CarbonWA sees the passage of this legislation as a doorway to more bipartisan collaboration on climate policies. The discussions around biochar have led to talks among legislators and stakeholders about “introducing a sustainable farm and fields grant bill this session.” CarbonWA is actively exploring policy options for this bill concept that would create a grant program for agricultural carbon reduction techniques (including biochar!).
The news on biochar kicks off the 2019 session with great excitement and demonstrates what we can do together to address climate change. If you want to support more of Carbon Washington’s climate work, please consider making a donation.