EPA Issues Tailoring Rule
When biomass, such as wood, is combusted for energy, it releases back into the atmosphere carbon dioxide that the trees had absorbed from the atmosphere during their growth. That is why CO2 emissions from biomass combustion are assigned an emissions factor of zero. However, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule determining which power sources will be subject to greenhouse gas permitting requirements does not exempt biomass (wood) power, a decision that has raised concern in the biomass industry.
Issued this month, the EPA’s final “tailoring rule” determines which emitters will be required to account for their greenhouse gas emissions in Clean Air Act permits, when the agency begins to formally regulate the ‘heat-trapping gases’ next January. Emissions from biomass or biogenic sources are treated the same as other sources of greenhouse gases in the final rule, even though private-forest groups urged the EPA to exclude biomass combustion from the requirements, arguing that the process is carbon neutral. Without an exemption from the tailoring rule, biomass producers will have an incentive to turn back to fossil fuels because they offer a more concentrated energy source.