EPA Sets Biomass Ruling Aside

This week the EPA announced that it would delay, for three years, its decision to require utilities to obtain permits for the CO2 emissions that result from biomass-fired electricity.

Last year the organization had passed a regulation that would in essence treat biomass burning the same as coal burning under the new greenhouse gas permitting regulations, which came into play this year.  Critics feared that the regulation would encourage some biomass fuel companies to export pellets to the UK and other regions where biomass as an electricity source was encouraged, according to a story RenewableEnergyWorld.com ran last December.

In its ruling, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said, “We are working to find a way forward that is scientifically sound and manageable for both producers and consumers of biomass energy.”

The EPA said that by July of 2011 it hopes to have completed the rulemaking that will defer permitting requirements for CO2 emissions from biomass-fired and other biogenic sources for three years.  During those three years, the agency will seek input from scientists on how to rule on this issue.

According to the organization, it received more than 7,000 comments on the issue during its call for information last summer.  It plans to review those comments as well.

On January 2, 2011, air-permitting requirements began for large GHG emitting industries that are planning to build new facilities or make major modifications to existing ones. These facilities must obtain air permits and implement energy efficiency measures or, where available, cost-effective technology to reduce their GHG emissions. 

The Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) applauded the organizations decision. In its recommendations to the EPA (one of the 7000 comments that was received), BTEC highlighted the environmental and economic benefits of utilizing locally produced, renewable biomass fuel for thermal needs. 

“Over the next three years, BTEC will work to maintain an open dialogue with EPA and provide it with the information needed to meet its requirements responsibly and accurately under the law,” said Executive Director Kyle Gibeault.  “The EPA’s most recent announcement on biomass–combined with its petition to reconfigure the Boiler MACT rule–is evidence that the agency is appreciating the critical role that biomass can play in addressing America’s economic and energy challenges.”

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