EPA Extends Greenhouse Gas Reporting Deadline Despite Doubts

Date: March 17, 2011

Source: News Room

EPA has released its proposed rule to create a three-year exemption from its greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting requirements for industries that use biomass. The rule, announced March 14, would eliminate the need for so-called biogenic emissions to meet the requirements of the agency's "tailoring" rule, which took effect in January and requires GHG limits in some Clean Air Act prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) and Title V permits for large industrial facilities. The three-year delay will give EPA more time to collect data on regulating biogenic GHGs. During the three-year deferral period, EPA will conduct a "detailed examination" of the science associated with biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from stationary sources, according to an EPA fact sheet. Industry argues that biogenic emissions are carbon neutral because plants absorb the same amount of CO2 when they grow as they emit when they are burned. Some environmentalists, however, argue that biomass can have equal or greater CO2 emissions compared to fossil fuels. The deferral is a win for biomass facilities because they will not have to meet PSD permitting requirements to install best available control technology (BACT) to reduce their GHGs.

However, it is still not clear whether EPA can permanently exempt biogenic CO2 from PSD permits for facilities' GHG emissions. Joseph Goffman, the senior counsel to EPA's air chief told an American Law Institute-American Bar Association environmental law conference Feb. 3 that "It is still very debatable whether or not as a matter of law we can exclude any CO2 emissions from the application of PSD regardless of the fuel source."

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