Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., joined the co-sponsors of a bill intended to increase the use of alternative fuels by public institutions, reducing the U.S. dependency on foreign fuels while reducing the cost of powering and heating the institutions. “This is a smart step toward preparing our communities for alternative energy use, and one that will save the taxpayers money,” Rehberg said in a press release Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Rneb., in April, would set up a revolving loan fund from which no-interest loans could be made to public institutions like schools and hospitals to pay the initial cost of switching over to biomass for energy production. The bill goes hand-in-hand with A bill sponsored by Rehberg in February, which promotes the use of biomass materials removed from forest lands, in connection with reducing the risk of fires in those lands, to use as a renewable energy source. It also could tie in with a bill proposed by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. That bill requires that at least 100,000 acres of timber be harvested over 10 years in the Beaverhead- Deerlodge and Kootenai national forests, with a focus on protecting communities from wildfire, providing economic development and increasing opportunities for recreation. Rehberg said the public institution revolving loan fund would help the institutions switch over to biomass energy at virtually no cost to themselves. The zero-interest loans could be paid off with the savings in energy costs, he said. “This will go a long way toward helping Montana’s schools and communities create jobs, promote healthier forests and reduce energy costs,” said Rehberg, a member of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. “As a part of an all-of-theabove energy solution, biomass can move us away from foreign sources of energy and toward the next generation of alternative energy production.” Rehberg’s, Tester’s and Fortenberry’s bills all are awaiting action in committees.