January 16, 2011

EPA regulations for biomass on hold

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced January 12, 2011 that it plans a three-year delay in regulating wood-fired power plants and other “biomass” incinerators under Clean Air Act provisions reducing greenhouse gases pending future consideration of the science and a subsequent rulemaking. The EPA is granting the three-year exemption despite the existing and very plain science that burning of trees and other wood products increases global warming pollution.

You can see the press release here: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/4369C709163915B485257816005971BB.

Under the EPA's Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule ("Tailoring Rule") after January 2, 2011, facilities generating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) totaling more than 75,000 tons per year (CO2-equivalent) would have had to get Clean Air Act permits, and show that they'd adopted the "best available control technology" or "BACT" to limit GHG emissions, but only if they already needed to get permits due to emissions of other pollutants. Starting on July 1, sources of more than 100,000 tons of GHGs per year (CO2-equivalent) would have to get permits regardless of their other emissions. The Tailoring Rule originally treated biomass emissions the same as any other GHG emissions.

However, several industries including biomass, timber and the National Alliance of Forest Owners' (NAFO) petitioned the EPA for reconsideration and lobbied Congress. They got a reprieve from the Administration. See the NAFO press release below and also note the NAFO director Dave Tenny comes from the American Forest & Paper Association, served as deputy undersecretary for natural resources at the United States Department of Agriculture and was staff of the Committee on Agriculture in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served as counsel and policy advisor on natural resources and related issues..

EPA's announcement January 12 does two things:

1. It creates a three-year exemption for biomass facilities from the permit requirement that would have taken effect on July 1.

2. It says that EPA intends to allow facilities to claim that burning biomass is itself a form of BACT for greenhouse gas emissions.

This effectively give the biomass industry a three year window to construct facilities that do not have to comply with the EPA GHG emissions rules and employ BACT, they will likely be grandfathered-in under any new rule. There will have to be an actual rulemaking to implement the exemption (so far, there are just a few letters to members of Congress and a letter granting the National Association of Forest Owners' petition for reconsideration of the tailoring rule). The rulemaking would need to be complete by July, so a proposed rule should come soon.

Source: http://bit.ly/dYPnSt

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