EPA delivers proposed rule on biogenic emissions to OMB

By Erin Voegele | February 25, 2020

The U.S. EPA delivered a proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 24 focused on the treatment of biogenic carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act’s permitting programs. OMB review marks a final step before a proposed rule is released for public comment.

A summary posted to the OMB website indicates the proposed rule “will establish the treatment of biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the use of certain biomass feedstocks at stationary sources under the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) and title V permitting programs.” The summary goes on to state that the proposed rule “will be based on the agency’s policy regarding the treatment of biogenic CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act.”

The EPA has taken several actions over the past several years aimed at formalizing its regulatory treatment of biogenic carbon emissions.

The EPA issued a policy statement in April 2018 that said future regulatory actions taken by the agency would treat biomass from managed forests as carbon neutral when used for energy production at stationary sources. In addition, several EPA appropriations bills have included language directing the agency to consult with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Energy to provide clarity on the carbon neutrality of biomass.

The EPA’s Science Advisory Board announced in March 2019 it had completed its review of the EPA’s 2014 Framework for Assessing Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources. A March 2019 letter authored by SAB Chair Michael Honeycutt and addressed to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler criticizes the 2014 biogenic framework for failing to provide regulatory context or the implementation details the SAB had previously required.

“The 2014 framework lacks specificity and is written in a way that is too generic with too many possibilities that would require assessment of different underlying science,” Honeycutt wrote. “Rather than offering a lengthy menu of calculating options, the EPA framework needs to define its scenarios and justify those choices. This would enable the SAB to evaluate the science underpinning those decisions and justifications.”

During a congressional hearing held in April 2019, Wheeler confirmed the agency was working on a biomass neutrality rule. He said the agency hoped to have a proposal out by the summer of 2019. “It’s a little more difficult than we originally anticipated,” Wheeler said during the hearing. “It’s taking some time, but we are moving forward with that.

According to information released by the OMB, the proposed rule is currently expected to be released in March. Additional information is available on the OMB website