Environmentalists Sue EPA over Decision to Exempt Biomass from GHG Permits

Date: May 4, 2011

Source: News Room

Environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Conservation Law Foundation and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, filed suit last month over EPA's plan to exempt biomass-fired and other biogenic fuel sources from having to meet first-time greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting rules, claiming that the agency does not have authority to retroactively exclude biomass facilities from the rules' scope. On March 21, EPA issued a proposed rule to defer GHG permitting requirements for biomass for three years. Also, the proposal a final decision to reconsider inclusion of biomass in its "tailoring" rule establishing GHG permit limits. Biomass was included in the final version of the tailoring rule, though the agency acknowledges in the text of that rule that the issue was not addressed specifically in its proposal. While the rule was under development, the National Association of Forest Owners (NAFO) and other groups repeatedly urged the agency in public comments to exempt biomass facilities from the scope of GHG permits. Biomass supporters argue that the fuel is "carbon neutral" because plants absorb the same amount of carbon when they grow as they emit when burned. As part of the reconsideration process EPA first announced Jan. 12 its plan to defer for three years GHG permitting requirements for biomass-fired and other biogenic sources. Environmentalists are filing suit to try to block the exclusion of biomass from the tailoring rule, pointing to new studies that show higher-than-expected GHG emissions levels from such facilities.

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