EPA asked to recognize long-term benefits of biomass energy
The 25x'25 Alliance has joined some 80 biomass, forestry, agriculture, conservation and bioenergy groups in a letter to EPA stating that any provisions associated with biomass the agency may develop as it completes its Tailoring Rule for biogenic carbon emissions must fully capture the long-term carbon benefits of biomass energy.
"EPA regulations must insure that the full potential of sustainable and clean bioenergy solutions be realized," said Ernie Shea, 25x'25 project coordinator.
The tailoring rule sets the requirements for certain stationary sources to obtain a Clean Air Act permit for their carbon emissions. The rule would for the first time regulate carbon emissions from bioenergy production the same as fossil fuel emissions. The rule "tailored" its program by limiting those facilities required to obtain a permit to power plants, refineries and other large industrial plants, while exempting smaller sources like farms, restaurants, schools and other facilities. EPA delayed its implementation of the rule for biogenic carbon emissions for three years, until 2014, for further study.
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. 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 - and are planning to make - 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. 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."
The groups urge the agency to recognize the significant and growing body of scientific findings concluding that carbon emissions from biomass do not introduce new carbon into the existing natural carbon cycle, noting that more wood is grown than harvested in the U.S. each year.
"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 states.
The groups also called on EPA to work closely with USDA and use the department's expertise on carbon cycles in developing any amendments to the tailoring rule.