EPA proposal classifies wood fuel from construction, demolition

By Erin Voegele | March 27, 2014

On March 27, the U.S. EPA released a proposed rule to amend its Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials regulation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The NHSM rule was finalized in February 2013 and establishes standards and procedures for identifying whether non-hazardous secondary materials are solid wastes when used as fuels or ingredients in combustion units.

Information published by the EPA explains that if a material is classified as solid waste under RRA, a combustion unit burning it must meet Clean Air Act section 129 emission standards for solid waste incineration units. Alternatively, if the material is not considered a solid waste, combustion units that burn it are required to meet the CAA section 112 emission standards for commercial, industrial and institutional boilers.

The NHSM rule, finalized on Feb. 7, 2013, established particular non-hazardous secondary materials as categorical non-waste fuels, provided certain conditions are met. According to the EPA, entities burning such materials do not need to evaluate them under the general case-by-case standards and procedures that would otherwise apply to non-hazardous secondary materials used in combustion units.

With the new amendment, the EPA is proposing to add three new materials to this list. The first new category is construction and demolition wood processed from construction and demolition debris according to best management practices. The second includes certain paper recycling residuals and the third is creosote-treated railroad ties that are processed and combusted in unites designed to burn both biomass and fuel oil.

Biomass Power Association President Bob Cleaves released a statement noting that the draft rule correctly classifies wood waste materials as fuel when used for energy, thereby providing regulatory certainty for its use by biomass power facilities.

"As the proposed rule points out, millions of tons of wood previously used for other purposes are discarded every year. For decades, this type of wood has been used by the biomass industry to supplement other wood waste like tops and limbs of trees, forestry residue, and thinnings. EPA's draft rule makes clear that using these fuels should be encouraged. EPA's policy is a common sense approach to biomass energy by promoting sustainable energy recovery practices while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions through landfilling,” Cleaves said. "We continue to study the rule and its implications, but we are optimistic that this signifies an important step for the EPA in promoting the use of wood and wood byproducts for energy."

A public comment period will open once the proposal is published in the Federal Register. Additional information, including a copy of the proposed rule, is available on the EPA website.