Forest Owners Tell EPA to Avoid Pitfalls in Biomass Review

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The comment period for the EPA's proposed rule to defer the regulation of biomass energy from greenhouse gas regulations ends today. As the EPA prepares its scientific review of biomass energy's carbon impact, Massachusetts issues regulations designed to halt biomass energy production in Massachusetts.

EPA must avoid this pitfall by initiating an even-handed review of the science and policy on biomass energy that doesn’t skew the outcome through arbitrary assumptions.

It has been nearly a year since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published its final PSD Tailoring Rule that regulated greenhouse gas emissions from biomass the same as fossil fuels. Today marks the close of the comment period for the EPA's proposed rule to defer the regulation of biomass from the GHG regulations for three years while it undertakes a science and policy review of regulating biogenic carbon emissions. The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) submitted official comments today to EPA on the proposed rule.

The deferral came in response to a Petition for Reconsideration of the Tailoring Rule filed last summer by NAFO. At the time of filing, Dave Tenny, President and CEO of NAFO, stated, "EPA’s reversal from the proposed to the final rule was a significant step backward for renewable energy that came as a surprise without prior notice or adequate explanation in the record. If allowed to stand, this decision will cripple the biomass energy marketplace at the very moment when our nation needs additional investment to realize its renewable energy goals."

On January 12, 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a letter to NAFO's attorney stating that they would defer the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from biomass for three years while they "seek independent scientific analysis" of the issues pertinent to the climate impacts of biogenic emissions and to finalize a rule on how biomass energy emissions are treated under greenhouse gas regulations. While the proposed deferral rule is being finalized, Jackson promised to allow biomass to be used as a best available control technology for fossil fuel sources seeking to comply with greenhouse gas regulations.

EPA has stated it will finalize the deferral rule by July 1. The agency has already started soliciting nominations for the independent scientific panel.

As EPA initiates its review, this week Massachusetts published a proposed regulation to halt most biomass energy production in the state. The proposed regulation denies renewable energy credits for most biomass energy facilities.

Tenny said, "It appears the Massachusetts DOER has decided it doesn’t want renewable biomass energy in the state and has devised a process to achieve that outcome. By setting arbitrary time and space limitations on the study conducted by Manomet, they received the answer they wanted to justify their policy. EPA must avoid this pitfall by initiating an even-handed review of the science and policy on biomass energy that doesn’t skew the outcome through arbitrary assumptions.”

NAFO's full comments on the deferral rule are available on its website.

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