EPA finalizes Tailoring Rule biomass deferment

By Anna Austin | July 07, 2011

The U.S. EPA has ruled that it will maintain its proposal to defer biomass from the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule for three years while the agency further studies the science and policy of regulating biomass energy.

The final version of the Tailoring Rule regulated biomass, or biogenic emissions, in the same manner as fossil fuels. It went into effect Jan. 2, but in response to multiple studies, statements and letters warning of the detrimental effects of the rule, a few weeks later the EPA announced the three-year deferment for biomass, with a final rulemaking to be made in July.

In the final deferment rule, the EPA says it will conduct a detailed examination of the science associated with biogenic CO2 emissions from stationary sources. “The study will consider technical issues that the agency must resolve in order to account for biogenic CO2 emissions in ways that are scientifically sound and also manageable in practice,” the rule states.

The EPA will then send the study to the Science Advisory Board for peer review.

David Tenny, president of the National Alliance of Forest Owners, said that forest owners are pleased that the EPA has finalized the rule, and that the original Tailoring Rule was flawed. “This is a prudent step towards restoring the federal government’s long-standing policy that biomass energy is an environmentally beneficial alternative to fossil fuels and does not increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere,” he said.

Tenny added that as that scientific and policy review commences, it is important that the EPA and other key agencies, such as the USDA and the U.S. DOE, conduct a review free of arbitrary assumptions or parameters that skew well-settled science. “For instance, the review should recognize that the forest carbon cycle is a dynamic, ongoing process that occurs across broad landscapes without a specific start and end date. Arbitrarily limiting areas and time frames when accounting for biomass carbon emissions inevitably skews the forest carbon picture.”

The final biogenic emissions deferment rule has been published in the Federal Register and may also be viewed at www.epa.gov/nsr.