California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month signed legislation to turn the biomass from forest waste and dead trees into renewable natural gas (RNG).

According to the California Forestry and Fire Protection Department, aka CalFIRE, the state has nearly 150 million dead trees. Studies have pinpointed sources throughout the nation for producing RNG, including woody forest waste. The Illinois-based Gas Technology Institute has estimated that more than 75 Bcf/year of RNG could be produced from dead trees over a 30-year period.

Southern California Gas Co. spokesperson Christine Detz said California is joining neighboring Oregon in “turning an organic waste problem into an affordable, renewable energy solution. The dead and decaying trees are not only a threat for wildfires, they also emit methane as they break down.”

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California has said converting organic waste to alternative fuels holds “the greatest potential for negative emissions in the state.”

Newsom also has signed legislation to improve wildfire protections for high-risk communities

Two bills direct the California Office of Emergency Services to establish best practices for counties and develop volunteer fire assistance. Another bill provides expedited permitting for back-up power generation. Measures also address consumer issues regarding fire protection, and the state’s hiring of 858 more firefighters and adding crews. 

“You have to see what’s happening in California this wildfire season to understand climate change is real,” Newsom said. “As our climate warms, catastrophic wildfires will increase.”