WTE feedstock / Cylonphoto, ShutterstockA bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would discourage federal agencies from buying electricity generated by burning fibers.

The House on Dec. 3 approved H.R.8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act. The bill includes a provision targeting electricity from waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities that burn substantial amounts of fiber.

Federal agencies are required to purchase a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources, including WTE, solar, wind, geothermal, landfill gas recovery and other sources. Currently, if a WTE plant uses municipal solid waste collected at the curb in one bin without a separate paper recycling stream, the electricity generated by that facility counts toward the renewable energy requirement.

H.R.8 would change that. It says the electricity would only qualify as renewable if the stream being burned is collected separately – and kept separate – from “commonly recycled paper.”

“What we wanted to do was to send a clear message to the federal agencies that they are more than welcome to purchase energy from biomass, including MSW, as long as it hasn’t been collected as part of a one-bin system,” said Fran McPoland, vice president of the Paper Recycling Coalition. “[Federal agencies] could very well be buying energy generated by combusting recyclables.”

The bill would still allow allow for incidental levels of paper in the WTE stream.

The provision helps protect the availability of commonly recycled paper to the fiber recycling industry, according to a Paper Recycling Coalition press release. The Washington, D.C.-based Paper Recycling Coalition represents the interests of the 100 percent recycled paperboard and containerboard industries.

The change was championed by Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who is chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

Prospects of passage for the bill are unclear. Senate Democrats slammed other provisions in the bill, and the White House threatened a veto, according to The Hill.