Activists Smarting for a Fight over Biomass Energy

Date: March 18, 2011

Source: News Room

The big environmental groups are increasing opposition to biomass as a cleaner-burning alternative to coal by opposing new plants and resisting EPA's proposal to delay greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation of the fuel for three years. In a tersely worded letter to EPA dated Mar. 7, a group of activists said the agency will be violating the intent of Congress and could be breaking the law if it waits three more years to start collecting data that Congress had ordered to be ready by 2009, according to the letter from the Sierra Club, Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council, collectively known as the "big greens." "The deferral would seriously degrade the reporting system's data quality, deny the public its legal right to this vital emission data, and disrupt other reporting programs," the environmental groups wrote.

EPA's proposal seeks to exempt biomass emissions from GHG limits for three years, beginning in July, and to immediately consider biomass as a best available control technology (BACT) for GHGs in permits that require limits on the gases. The proposal is intended to allow the agency time to conduct a "detailed examination" of the science associated with biomass emissions.

Activists say they will no longer seek construction of such plants in settlements as an alternative to coal plants because they emit more GHGs than coal and are on par with coal on emissions of criteria pollutants and some air toxics. Their opposition to a proposed 50-megawatt biomass-fired power plant in Wisconsin even though it was required as part of a 2008 settlement with the Sierra Club, is a recent example.

See: Letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson from Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club, dated March 7, 2011 (

Sign up to receive our free Weekly News Bulletin