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Biomass Groups Pressure EPA on Clean Air Act Emission Standards

Energy groups say carbon emissions for biomass plants do not introduce new carbon into the atmosphere; should not be subject to more EPA permitting

Published on: Aug 2, 2013

More than 75 biomass and energy groups Thursday signed a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency calling for special biomass provisions in a new rule that would regulate biogenic carbon emissions.

The group said the EPA's "tailoring rule" – so called because it tailors the program by setting requirements for power plants and refineries to obtain a Clean Air Act permit for their carbon emissions – must take into account long-term carbon benefits of biomass energy.

Further, the tailoring rule would regulate carbon emissions from bioenergy production the same as fossil fuel emissions. EPA previously delayed implementation for three years, until 2014, for further study.

Energy groups say carbon emissions for biomass plants should not be subject to more EPA permitting
Energy groups say carbon emissions for biomass plants should not be subject to more EPA permitting

However, a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated EPA's 2011 delay, putting pressure on the agency to act now.

25 x '25 said the ruling has created significant uncertainty for biomass and forest products facilities that have begun operations, construction or major modifications since the agency first delayed implementing the rule two years ago.

Companies have made significant investments to comply with other environmental regulations, improve energy efficiency, and meet the growing global demand for pulp, paper-based packaging, wood products and energy, energy group 25x'25 said. They believe a failure by EPA to recognize the full benefits of biomass power production could put those investments in jeopardy.

"As EPA develops its rules, we recommend that provisions associated with biomass should be simple, practical, science-based, and fully capture the long-term carbon benefits of biomass energy," the groups told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in the letter.

"Regulations based on complex modeling, arbitrary assumptions, and a burdensome verification process will discourage biomass utilization as a renewable energy source and threaten the continued use of this important renewable resource as part of an 'all of the above' energy policy," they said.

The groups said there is a growing body of scientific findings which conclude that carbon emissions from biomass do not introduce new carbon into the existing natural carbon cycle.

"So long as forest carbon stocks nationally are stable or increasing, biogenic carbon is not contributing to overall increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases," and permits requirements are not necessary, the letter said.