Senators advocate for EPA biogenic carbon emissions framework

By Erin Voegele | May 29, 2014

A group of 12 Senators recently sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Gina MCarthy, asking her to address the regulatory uncertainty over biogenic carbon emissions. In the letter, the Senators point out several specific elements they believe the EPA’s biogenic carbon emissions accounting framework should encompass, and encourage the EPA to work closely with the USDA to development the framework.

The Senators noted that the National Climate Assessment recently released by the White House confirms the role forest biomass can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The letter also expresses confidence that the EPA has the legal authority to differentiate biomass emissions from fossil fuel emissions.

According to the Senators, the EPA’s biogenic carbon emissions framework should be simple and implementable. They stress that the U.S. bioenergy energy industry is still in its nascent stage and new and complicated regulatory burdens could discourage growth. The Senators also specify that they believe the framework should recognize that woody biomass doesn’t increase atmospheric carbon so long as overall forest carbon stocks are stable or increasing. The Senators also asks McCarthy to ensure the framework recognizes the carbon benefits of using forest and mill residues and materials removed through forest thinning activities in bioenergy applications. Finally, they stress that the framework should provide legal consistency across states.

“We believe bioenergy offers cost-effective solutions to reduce climate pollution, provide local options for energy independence and creates good paying jobs, particularly in rural areas; however, until these accounting rules are clarified, forest biomass will continue to be handicapped from contributing to addressing these challenges,” said the Senators in the letter.

The letter was signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Angus King, I-Maine; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Mark Udall, D-Colo.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; and Jeanne Shaheen, D.N.H.

In April, McCarthy addressed the development of the biogenic emissions framework during a hearing held by the House Committee on Appropriations. At that time, she said she is hopeful that the framework will be finalized by the end of the year.