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Winter Storm Avery takes lives, puts the brakes on commutes across the Northeast. Also on our Friday rundown: A first-of-its-kind report calls for policies to ease transitions of young people living in foster care. And "got gratitude" this holiday season? It could benefit your health.

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WA Seeks Partners with Big Ideas for Wood Waste

July 23, 2009

Olympia, WA - It's not exactly spinning straw into gold, but the potential for making some money from wood waste is there for public or private parties. The State of Washington wants to partner with companies to take wood waste off state land and use it to make biofuel or electricity, and it will select two groups to begin pilot projects.

Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark says the technology is proven and the drivers behind it are strong. It doesn't make sense to pollute the air by burning years' worth of old timber slash piles, he says, when they could be a money-making resource for the state, and prompt a new "green" industry that creates jobs.

"We're very excited about this opportunity to get started on developing our own energy independence while we're improving the health of our forests and cutting back on the risks of wildfires. We're looking forward to forming some great partnerships."

Some mills and manufacturers already use their own wood waste to generate power for their facilities, but not from state forests. The need to get rid of thousands of tons of biomass in Eastern Washington is especially urgent, says Goldmark.

"There's a lot of dead and dying timber there, from drought or from bug kill or just from too dense a stand. This is creating a real risk of wildfire and it drives up the cost of suppressing any fires that start."

The state has almost 2 million acres of forestland and an enormous supply of biomass to work with. The Department of Natural Resources will be taking letters of interest until August 21 from anyone who has ideas or technology for processing the wood waste. Instructions for submitting a letter are online at www.dnr.wa.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA