OMB weighs in on biomass language included in appropriations bill

By Erin Voegele | July 01, 2015

The White House Office of Management and Budget has published a statement of administration policy that details its opposition to several components of an appropriations bill pending the in the U.S. House of Representatives, including a provision related to biogenic carbon emissions.

The Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016, also known as H.R. 2822, includes language that would categorize air emissions from forest biomass as carbon-neutral. The text of the bill would require the administrator of the U.S. EPA to “base agency policies and actions regarding air emissions from forest biomass including, but not limited to, air emissions from facilities that combust forest biomass for energy, on the principle that forest biomass emissions do not increase overall carbon dioxide accumulations in the atmosphere when USDA Forest Inventory and Analysis data show that forest carbon stocks in the U.S are stable or increasing on a national scale, or when forest biomass is derived from mill residuals, harvest residuals, or forest management activities.” The text of the bill goes on to state that “such policies and actions shall not pre-empt existing authorities of states to determine how to utilize biomass as a renewable energy source and shall not inhibit state’s authority to apply the same policies to forest biomass as other renewable fuels in implementing federal law.”

On June 25, Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., introduced an amendment that aimed to strike the biomass provision from the bill. However, the amendment was withdrawn.

In its statement of administration policy, the OMB indicated that the administration objects to the bill’s representation of forest biomass as categorically carbon-neutral. “This language conflicts with existing EPA policies on biogenic CO2 and interferes with the position of states that do not apply the same policies to forest biomass as other renewable fuels like solar or wind. This language stands in contradiction to a wide-ranging consensus on policies and best available science from EPA's own independent Science Advisory Board, numerous technical studies, many States, and various other stakeholders,” said the OMB in the statement.

The EPA’s SAB Biogenic Carbon Emissions Panel is currently working to finalize the agency’s biogenic carbon emissions framework. The panel is scheduled to hold three teleconferences over the next several months to review the EPA’s biogenic carbon emissions framework. The agency held a face-to-face meeting of the panel in late March along with a teleconference in May. 

The U.S. EPA released the second draft of its biogenic emissions framework in November. At that time, the EPA indicated the draft framework would undergo additional review and published a memo outlining how the updated framework would impact the Clean Power Plan and Prevention of Significant Deterioration Program.