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Oregon Biomass Industry Questions EPA Tailoring Rule

The biomass industry in Oregon is concerned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new ‘tailoring’ ruling could result in biomass losing its ‘green’ or carbon neutral status and be considered a greenhouse gas polluter just like coal-fired plants, reports OregonLive (via AP).

What’s in question is the EPA’s tailoring rule released in May (as reported by EL), which establishes thresholds for CO2 and other greenhouse gases for pollution permits under the Clean Air Act for large stationary sources.

The biomass industry is concerned because the EPA did not give all biomass combustion greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a blanket exemption from complying with the act, according to four environmental groups, which recently filed a joint motion in federal court to help defend the EPA’s decision, reports Common Dreams.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Clean Air Task Force (CATF) attorneys filed a motion to intervene in defense of the EPA’s rule on behalf of Georgia ForestWatch and Wild Virginia, represented by SELC, and the Conservation Law Foundation and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, represented by CATF.

The environmental groups support the EPA’s decision to count emissions from burning biomass when it begins regulating global warming pollution from large power plants and other large industrial facilities.

The environmental groups believe that burning woody materials, grasses and other biomass can help the U.S. by moving from fossil fuels but only if the biomass is sourced and accounted for properly so that the carbon emitted when biomass is burned equals or is less than the carbon taken up by new plant growth.

The EPA said it has not reversed its position that biomass combustion is carbon neutral, but the agency plans on evaluating the carbon impact of biomass and will decide whether its carbon neutral status is still justified, reports OregonLive.

Oregon legislators and the biomass industry believe that if the EPA decides that biomass is not carbon neutral the penalty cost for carbon could eliminate any profitability in the industry, along with its associated benefits, according to the article.

Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, which represents 80 facilities in 20 states, said in the article that “the industry would be stopped in its tracks if it is regulated like a coal plant.”

EPA’s endangerment finding is being challenged by industry groups and several state lawmakers.

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