U.S. EPA recently published a final rule reversing its prior position on reporting so-called biogenic GHG emissions–emissions created from burning plant-based fuels.
Beginning this month, industries that are large emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), or those that are planning to build new facilities or make major modifications to existing ones, must obtain air permits and implement energy efficiency measures or, where available, cost-effective technology to reduce their GHGs emissions.
In an earlier proposed rule, EPA did not require separate reporting of GHG emissions from biomass. Yet, on December 17, EPA released its final rule, which requires power plants that burn biomass to produce energy to report GHG emissions from biogenic fuel. These emissions must be reported separately from other emissions.
EPA states its rule is intended to gather data to inform the broader policy debate about the climate impact of burning biomass.
Both industry groups and environmentalists opposed EPA’s position.
The American Forest & Paper Association protested that failure to separate biomass GHG emissions from GHG emissions caused by burning other fuels “will overstate net CO2 entering the atmosphere” and will confuse climate and renewable energy policy in the country. Comments by the Clean Air Task Force, NRDC and the Sierra Club urged that biogenic GHG emissions be counted separately because some kinds of biomass can lead to direct and indirect changes in land use, which in turn can increase GHG emissions. EPA states that the rule is not based on any decision as to whether biomass is carbon neutral.
EPA plans to issue guidance this month to help state officials determine the climate impact of biomass in first time GHG permits required this year.
The GHG reporting program, launched in October 2009, requires the reporting of GHG emissions data from large emission sources and fuel suppliers across a range of industry sectors. Under a first set of actions, EPA will permit GHGs in seven states (Ariz., Ark., Fla., Idaho, Kan., Ore., and Wyo.) until the state or local agencies can revise their permitting regulations to cover these emissions. In the second set of actions, EPA has issued final rules that will ensure that there are no federal laws in place that require any state to issue a permit for GHG emissions below levels outlined in the tailoring rule.
EPA is also proposing actions to address issues about the public availability of certain data that some businesses may consider to be confidential. The total emissions for each facility still must be be reported to EPA and released to the public. EPA is soliciting comments seeking more specific information about claims of business sensitivity regarding inputs to emissions equations. EPA also proposes to defer the deadline for reporting that data until March 2014.
For more information on EPA’s new rule, or on biomass as an energy source, contact Steve O’Day (email@example.com) or Jessica Lee Reece (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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