SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) on Wednesday introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1900, a bill that would change California’s laws pertaining to biogas. Biogas (also known as bio-methane) is natural gas produced by decomposing matter.

It is a by-product of many regular activities. Landfills, water-treatment plants, and livestock farms all produce biogas. It can be burned instead of natural gas in electricity-producing facilities, natural-gas-powered vehicles, and home appliances, and it has a quarter of the lifetime emissions of “regular” natural gas, a fossil fuel.

However, under current law, biogas producers in California are banned from selling their fuel. The law prohibits landfill gas from being injected into the pipelines that carry natural gas across the state, and imposes such strict testing requirements on other forms of biogas that it effectively prohibits them as well. Thus, California’s producers of biogas are forced to either “flare” (burn) it, or let it escape into the atmosphere, both of which, ironically, pollute the air.

“Go outside and light a huge fire so that the smoke blocks your solar panels,” said Gatto. “That’s the effect of our policies in the biogas arena. We not only force producers to waste their natural energy source, but we force them to pollute as well.”

Because of California’s ban, many utilities purchase biogas from non-California sources. This means the jobs from this burgeoning industry are created outside the state. AB 1900 would protect current relationships with biogas producers around the country, but set up a new system within California to foster local industry and local jobs. The bill would also allow California producers of biogas, whether big landfills or small farmers, to sell it to utilities in the state, as long as it is demonstrably clean, pure, and safe. It would also prevent utilities from having to raise rates by expressly allowing them to make good on their existing contracts to buy biogas, regardless of the source.

Thus, the bill will make California’s air cleaner, give municipal utilities the security they need to keep rates low while complying with the state’s tough renewable laws, and remove inconsistencies in state policy. “We can produce renewable power in our state, from sources that occur naturally,” said Gatto. “We can put Californians to work, clean our air, keep utility bills low, and we can stop the insanity of requiring existing producers of biogas to burn it while they use fossil fuels for electricity. Or we can maintain the status quo, wasting a naturally occurring product, causing greater pollution, and ignoring a tool for diversifying our state’s domestic-energy portfolio. It’s about time we choose the former.”

AB 1900 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Rules and is pending referral to a policy committee in the Assembly, where it will enjoy its first full hearing this Spring. It has garnered substantial bipartisan interest in the few hours since its introduction.

Mike Gatto is the Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore of the California State Assembly. He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, and parts of Los Angeles, including Los Feliz, North Hollywood, Silver Lake, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, and Van Nuys.