On November 19, EPA released a policy memo that allows states to rely on energy generated from “waste-derived and certain forest-derived industrial byproduct feedstocks” as tools for compliance with EPA’s proposed existing source performance standards (ESPS) for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The memo announced that EPA will propose a rule exempting waste and “sustainably derived” biomass from best available control technology (BACT) requirements in stationary source permits, and will revise its prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) rules to “include an exemption from the [BACT] requirement for GHGs from waste-derived feedstocks and from non-waste biogenic feedstocks derived from sustainable forest or agricultural practices.” Waste-derived feedstocks would be exempt from GHG BACT based on conclusions from technical studies. GHG emissions from non-waste biogenic feedstocks would be exempt “if the applicant can demonstrate that these feedstocks, in fact, come from sustainably managed lands.”
The initial response from the biomass industry, which favors exemption of biomass-derived energy from GHG controls because it is assertedly carbon-neutral, is supportive of the EPA memo. Environmental groups, who take the position that some materials burned for energy, such as whole trees, actually increase GHGs in the atmosphere because of the dramatic immediate release of GHGs that take decades to resequester in growing trees, have been initially critical of the EPA memo.
Meanwhile, after EPA’s initial draft framework for assessing the carbon footprint of biomass combustion was criticized by EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB), EPA has submitted a second draft framework for review by SAB, saying the earlier criticisms have been addressed.