Comment period on EPA's Clean Power Plan to close Dec. 1

By Erin Voegele | November 28, 2014

The public comment period on the U.S. EPA’s proposed rule for the Clean Power Plan is set to close Dec. 1. The proposal, which was originally announced in June, aims to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030, when compared to 2005 emissions. 

The proposal will be implemented through a state-federal partnership that is designed to provide each state with flexibility in meeting its specific goals. Under the partnership, states will identify a path forward using either current or new electricity produced and pollution control policies. The proposed rule provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals set by EPA. 

While the proposal specifically recognizes “that biomass-derived fuels can play an important role in CO2 emission reduction strategies,” the EPA had not yet released an updated version of its draft accounting framework for biogenic carbon emissions when the Clean Power Plan proposed rule was issued. At that time, the EPA also indicated that once released, the accounting framework would assist states and the agency in assessing the impact of the use of biomass fuels in reaching emissions reduction goals in the energy sector under state plans to comply with the requirements in the emission guidelines.

On Nov. 19, the EPA released a revised framework for assessing biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from stationary sources. Although the revised framework will undergo additional review, the agency also issued a memo authored by Acting Administrator Janet McCabe that describes the EPA’s current thinking with respect to biogenic emissions and the Clean Power Plan and Prevention of Significant Deterioration program permits. 

“In the implementation of the CPP, the EPA anticipates that some states will wish to include the use of biogenic feedstocks in their compliance plans. When considering state compliance plans, the Agency expects to recognize the biogenic C02 emissions and climate policy benefits of waste-derived and certain forest-derived industrial byproduct feedstocks, based on the conclusions supported by a variety of technical studies, including the revised Framework,” McCabe said in the memo. “In addition, given the importance of sustainable land management in achieving the carbon reduction goals of the President's Climate Action Plan, the EPA expects that states' reliance specifically on sustainably-derived agricultural- and forest-derived feedstocks may also be an approvable element of their compliance plans. This approach is consistent with the EPA's recognition in the proposal that every state has different energy systems and available fuel mixes. Many states already recognize the importance of forests and other lands for climate resilience and mitigation, and have developed a variety of sustainable forestry and land use management policies and programs to address these concerns. Some states also encourage participation in sustainable forest management programs developed by third-party forestry and/or environmental entities.”

According to McCabe, the EPA will evaluate the biogenic components of proposed state plans as part of the compliance plan review and approval process, and will provide clarification as needed on the basis on which it will make such biomass-related evaluations.

The EPA is accepting comments on the Clean Power Plan proposed furl through Dec. 1. Comments should reference Docket ID:  EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602 and can be submitted online via the website or by email, fax mail or hand delivery. Information on how to submit comments is available on the EPA website.