WASHINGTON – Delmarva lawmakers introduced a bill in Congress on Thursday that would provide federal tax credits to power companies that use chicken manure as a fuel to generate power.
The bill would add chicken waste to the list of renewable “biomass” fuels, such as wood chips, that currently earn a tax credit for utilities that burn them to generate energy. The credit also applies to renewable resources such as solar and wind power.
The bill was introduced Thursday in the House by Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R- Kennedyville, and reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. William Roth, R-Del., who unsuccessfully pushed such a proposal last year.
Its supporters see the plan as a way to make a positive out of a negative. An overabundance of chicken manure has been linked to outbreaks of Pfiesteria piscicida and other environmental problems on the Eastern Shore.
“Necessity is the mother of invention. We have a lot of smart people that with a little prodding and structure can solve problems,” Gilchrest said of the proposal to turn poultry manure into an asset.
Gilchrest said he was originally drawn to the idea a few years ago — “prior to pfiesteria” — as a way to reduce large amounts of chicken manure on the Shore.
While visiting England on other congressional business last year, Gilchrest toured two power plants that burn poultry waste and was impressed. Those plants burn about half of the United Kingdom’s chicken manure and provide electricity to more than 100,000 people, Roth and Gilchrest said.
Those English plants purchase waste from surrounding chicken farms and burn it in furnaces to create steam that drives turbines that generate electricity.
Roth introduced the proposal in Congress in September, when he likened the process to “what medieval alchemists dreamed of — turning a base element into gold.” That bill was co-sponsored by Maryland Sens. Barbara Milkulski and Paul Sarbanes, both Baltimore Democrats who have signed onto the current measure.
But supporters said last year’s bill was introduced too late in the session and it died.
Roth’s new Poultry Electric Energy Power legislation — or PEEP — calls for a 1.7-cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit for electric companies that use chicken manure as a fuel. Gilchrest said his bill calls for a 1.5-cent per kilowatt-hour credit.
A spokesman for Conectiv, a power company that operates a natural gas and oil-fired generating plant in Vienna, Md., tax credits would be an added incentive to considering chicken manure as an alternative fuel.
“(Tax credits) would certainly make it a more attractive business proposition,” said Ted Caddell. He said Conectiv has been studying the possibility of retrofitting its plants on the Eastern Shore for some time, but is still evaluating the use of poultry-derived fuel.
Power plants like the one in Vienna are “in the heart of a poultry farming area … ideally situated to solve a problem,” Caddell said.